The Victorian government plans to ban religious schools from sacking or refusing to hire staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the planned reforms will close a “hurtful gap” in the state’s current anti-discrimination laws.
The laws currently allow religious organisations and schools to sack or refuse to hire people based on their sexuality or gender if it’s incompatible with their beliefs.
“People shouldn’t have to hide who they are to keep their job,” Symes said.
“These laws will strike the right balance between protecting the LGBTIQ+ community from discrimination and supporting the fundamental rights of religious bodies and schools to practice their faith.”
Symes said she will introduce the reforms to the Equal Opportunity Act later this year.
The government plans to ban religious bodies and schools from “discriminating against an employee because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attribute”.
The reforms will also stop government-funded religious bodies from refusing services to people based on their sexuality or gender identity.
The government will soon begin consultation with LGBTIQ+, education and faith-based groups on the reforms.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown welcomed the “winding back of outdated carve-outs in anti-discrimination laws.”
Brown said everyone deserves to live, work and study with dignity and respect “no matter who they are or whom they love”.
Religious schools staff should be ’employed on merit, not their sexuality’
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins from Discrimination Claims welcomed the Victorian government’s announcement.
“I don’t think there should be any right for any religious institution, school or otherwise, to discriminate against workers or students on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.
“The exemption has to go, so any employee, be it a teacher or anyone else at a religious institution is safe.
“They should be there based on merit, and not their sexuality.
“Imagine being different and your school telling you that you are less than, and that you deserve less rights than other people, because of who you are. It’s disgraceful.”
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