The head of the University of Queensland’s law school will step down in January, a year after causing controversy with his comments about transgender students.
Since May 2018, Professor Patrick Parkinson has been academic dean of the TC Beirne School of Law. But he’ll leave the role in January, the Brisbane Times reported.
Professor Parkinson also chairs Christian think tank Freedom for Faith and has ties to the Australian Christian Lobby.
He told the Brisbane Times he has made the “difficult” decision to “give up” the senior role at the law school to better balance his work and family life.
“I explained to the staff [the] needs of the family really had to take priority at this stage and could not easily be met while in such a demanding role,” he said.
“The law school is doing really well and I am confident it will go on from strength to strength.”
In January he’ll “transition to a fractional appointment” at UQ instead, according to the uni.
Law dean under fire for comments on transgender students
Last September Professor Patrick Parkinson caused outrage at UQ with his comments on transgender youth at a Freedom for Faith conference in Sydney.
He argued religious schools should be allowed to reject a student’s gender identity after they transition.
The family law professor claimed school principals may have a “crisis of conscience” if they “genuinely believe” it isn’t in the student’s best interests to affirm their gender.
He equated the situation to affirming the “overweight” body image of an “adolescent girl with an eating disorder.”
Parkinson made the claims in his paper, Is Gender Identity Discrimination a Religious Freedom Issue?, at the conference.
He argued religious schools should retain current religious exemptions allowing discrimination against students based on their gender identity.
Those legal exemptions should also be extended to non-faith schools, he argued.
Professor Parkinson said “many of the ideas strongly promulgated” by the “transgender movement” are based upon “unscientific beliefs”.
“It is one thing to ask me to respect your beliefs. It is another to ask me to act towards you as if I share your beliefs about you,” he said.
In February, Parkinson also addressed an Australian Christian Lobby “conversion therapy” forum at the Queensland Parliament.
Speaking this week, he told the Brisbane Times university leadership had never taken issue with his comments on “difficult social issues”.
“They recognise the importance of academic freedom,” he said.
“As a family lawyer and child expert, I have dealt with difficult issues throughout my career.”
UQ academics sign letter after Professor Patrick Parkinson’s comments
Professor Parkinson’s comments on transgender students caused outcry at UQ at the time.
Dozens of law school staff signed an open letter pledging their support for trans people within the faculty.
At the time Parkinson said he also had “a very strong commitment to diversity and inclusion” within the law school.
“It doesn’t matter in the slightest what someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is either for the study or practice of law,” he said.
However the UQ staff said they signed the statement after concerned students approached them.
The UQ Law Society also put out a similar statement, acknowledging “concerns from students and staff”.
I will do whatever I can to support #LGBTIAQ+ members of the @UQLaw and wider #UQ community. I am privileged to work with colleagues who share this commitment to diversity and inclusion pic.twitter.com/Eg2od3Sph8
— Rain Liivoja (@RainLiivoja) September 17, 2019
At the time, Equality Australia’s Anna Brown said “all schools’ first priority should be the wellbeing of the kids in their care.”
“[This includes] transgender children and our laws should help schools do that,” Ms Brown said.
“Principals should take advice from doctors on the way these cases should be handled.
“[They should not] decide for themselves whether a child’s experience of gender dysphoria is legitimate or not.”
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