Advocates urge McGowan to change WA law after US Supreme Court ruling

LGBTIQ+ advocates in Western Australia are calling on Premier Mark McGowan to reassess state laws in light of the US Supreme Court’s decision to protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.

Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 that sexuality and gender based discrimination was covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Former senator and veteran advocate Brian Greig warns that by contrast, Western Australian laws are among the worst in Australia, still allowing for LGBTIQ+ people to be sacked.

“WA law gives special privilege to religious schools to expel LGBTI students and sack gay staff,” Greig said.

“In 2015, a Mandurah Christian School pushed out a seven year old girl when it discovered she was being raised by two gay dads. In 2017, a history teacher was dumped from a Rockingham Baptist college when it learned he is gay during the postal survey on marriage equality.”

“This discrimination is only possible because of an archaic section of WA’s Equal Opportunity Act.”

Greig highlights that Opposition Leader before the 2017 election, McGowan said that in his view this discrimination was wrong and the law should be changed. As Premier he has not raised the issue and no repeal legislation has been drafted.

Special religious exemptions for faith schools were abolished in Tasmania 20 years ago, and have been addressed in Queensland and the ACT in more recent years. In 2017, lobbyists for WA’s LGBTI community met with State Attorney-General John Quigley to raise the issue.

“Mr Quigley said he would not consider moving on the matter until after the outcome of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into Religious Freedom,” Greig continues.

“Apart from that deference being unnecessary, the federal government is refusing to table that report until a full year after its Religious Freedom Bill passes. But that Bill has been shelved, may never see the light of day again and may not pass the senate if it does.”

“This is an absurd situation designed to delay and prevent any reform, and the State Government cannot justify its failure to act locally based on this federal game-playing.”

“The US decision found that gay and transgender employees are protected under the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

“It’s well past time for WA to update its Equal Opportunity Act from 1984.”

Grieg’s calls echo those of fellow advocates, calling for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill in the wake of the US decision.

Spokesperson for LGBTIQ+ advocacy organisation just.equal, Rodney Croome, says the US ruling should move the Morrison Government to reconsider the legislation.

“The US Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the Morrison Government that enacting stronger discrimination protections for LGBTIQ people is the right thing to do, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum,” Croome said.

“The Supreme Court decision confirms LGBTIQ inclusion and dignity to be a civil right that trumps the divisive and dehumanising ideology behind Australia’s flawed Religious Discrimination Bill.”

“It’s time for the Morrison Government to withdraw the Religious Discrimination Bill and instead enact a broad ranging Human Rights Act to protect all rights equally.”

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