Victoria bans religious schools from sacking staff for being LGBT


victorian government religious schools harriet shing scott morrison
Victorian MP Harriet Shing and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Images: Victorian Parliament, YouTube

The Victorian government has passed laws banning religious schools from sacking or refusing to hire staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The state parliament’s upper house passed the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill, 22 votes to 12 on Friday.

The bill bans religious organisations and schools from “discriminating against an employee because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attribute”.

Schools and organisations can only make employment decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs when critical to the job, such as the hiring of a religious studies teacher or principal.

The laws don’t affect religious organisations’ selection of priests, ministers, religious leaders or their members.

Additionally, the new laws prohibit government-funded religious bodies from refusing services to people based on their sexual orientation or gender.

Victorian Labor Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes explained teachers and staff at religious schools feared being outed and sacked when their sexuality, gender identity or marital status was irrelevant to their role.

“I hope with this long-overdue change all LGBTIQ+ Victorians can live authentically free of fear,” she said.

“And in no doubt that laws such as this also have their back.

“Our reforms respect the independence of religious bodies while reducing critical gaps in protections against discrimination.”

Tasmania has also had similar laws for 23 years.

However, if the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill passes, it will override both states’ laws.

The federal bill allows religious schools to preference hiring people based on religious views if the policy is publicly available.

This legal conflict could lead to a High Court challenge. However, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes has indicated she’ll defend the state’s laws.

Lesbian MP gives an emotional speech to parliament on discrimination bill

Labor MP Harriet Shing (pictured above left), the first openly lesbian member of the Victorian parliament, gave an emotional speech in support of the amendment bill.

She criticised the state Liberal-National opposition for opposing the bill.

“Voting against this bill because you think you know tolerance and inclusion are not to know the discrimination that I face,” she said.

Shing said LGBTIQ Australians live “lives of a thousand cuts in a thousand different ways.”

“For our entire lives, we are told that we’re different,” she said.

“And we’re told in too many cases that that difference is unacceptable.”

Shing also slammed the Morrison Government’s federal Religious Discrimination Bill. She said its passage will license bigotry.

“[The bill will] mean that I can continue to be told that I belong in hell,” she said.

“That I’m a disgrace, that I’m not worthy of being included in the way that others are. Because for some reason, religious belief trumps my identity,” she said.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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2 Comments

  1. 6 December 2021
    Reply

    For almost 19 years Queensland has had exactly the same high level of Anti-Discrimination Act protection as Victoria has just enacted.

    On 29th November 2002 the Beattie Labor Government passed their Discrimination Law Amendment Act 2002 (the Act took effect from 1st April 2003 and is viewable at: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2003-0051 ).

    The Discrimination Law Amendment Act 2002 ensured full protection in regard to discrimination on the grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as well as Marital Status. The same Act also removed the previous blanket exemption for religious bodies, replacing it with the limited concession that religious bodies were exempt only when they were choosing their own clergy or dedicated religious instructors.

    Unfortunately the majority of media releases from Just Equal, Equality Australia and almost all media (including QNews) consistently fail to include mention of Queensland’s 2 decades of legislated protection of LGBTIQ teachers and other school workers, as well as students.

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