Advocates welcome Porter’s commitment to protect state laws

LGBTI equality advocates have welcomed a commitment from federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter, that proposed religious discrimination and freedom laws will not interfere with existing state and territory discrimination protections.

But they remain concerned about “the devil in the detail” of federal legislation, and have called on Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese to give an iron-clad commitment that state laws will not be watered down in any way.

Mr Porter has told Guardian Australia that his bill “is not intended to displace state law nor will it import specific provisions of international law” that may override state laws.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said it was reassuring to know Tasmania’s exisiting protections would be maintained.

“Tasmania has the strongest discrimination and hate speech protections for LGBTI people in the nation, and we are concerned federal legislation could water down these protections in the name of religious freedom.”

“We welcome Mr Porter’s commitment, but we still fear the devil will be in the detail.”

“For example, the Government has flagged religious freedom amendments to marriage and charity law that could allow religious organisations to discriminate in ways that are currently not allowed in Tasmania.”

“This would impact not only LGBTI people, but also single parents, divorcees, de facto partners, people with disabilities, and anyone who falls foul of traditional religious precepts.” Croome said.

While the comments from the Attorney General were welcomed, advocates said party leaders needed to make “iron-clad” commitments.

“We want Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese to give an iron-clad commitment that strong state and territory discrimination protections, like those in Tasmania, will not be watered down under any new federal religious discrimination and freedom law.”

According to the Guardian Australia report, Tasmanian Shadow Attorney-General, Ella Haddad, has written to her federal Labor colleagues seeking a commitment to ensuring Tasmanian discrimination laws are not adversely impacted by federal legislation.

Uniquely in Australia, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act does not allow religious organisations, including schools, hospitals and welfare agencies, to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status or marital status.

Tasmanian hate speech laws prohibit incitement to hatred and offensive language, including if it is in the name of religion.

Porter has been travelling across the country presenting the proposed religious discrimination legislation to colleagues. Earlier this week the West Australian reported that some of the Attorney General’s parliamentary colleagues had questioned if he would be able to developed suitable legislation because he himself is not religious.

Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has called for a broader religious freedom act, rather than the proposed religious discrimination legislation.

OIP Staff

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