Calls for McGowan to step up for LGBTIQ+ students and teachers

Local LGBTIQ+ advocates are calling on the state government to take action on LGBTIQ+ discrimination in schools, as the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill lies in wait.

A 36-year-old provision in WA’s Equal Opportunity Act allows for faith-based schools to refuse enrolment, expel students and fire staff on the basis of sexuality or gender identity.

Maxine Drake of the Same-Sex Parents Association says WA needs to follow other states in removing the offending law.

“Section 73[3] of the WA Equal Opportunity Act is the worst anti-LGBTI law of its kind in Australia. No other state has a special religious exemption as broad or brutal as this one,” Drake said.

“Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT have either partially or entirely outlawed this discrimination.”

Drake also highlighted the Premier’s past comments on the issue. In 2015, the then Opposition Leader spoke out against the expulsion of a 7-year-old from a Mandurah school when it was discovered she had two gay fathers.

Former senator and veteran advocate Brian Greig says the state government needs to stop ducking the issue.

“When I wrote to State Attorney General John Quigley in 2017 about changing the law shortly after Labor won government, he was unable to move on this matter until he considered the commonwealth review into Religious Freedom established by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. That review was released two years ago,” Greig said.

“In a subsequent meeting with me and Maxine Drake in 2018, Mr Quigley cited a new reason for delay. He said he was now waiting on the outcome of an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report into Religious Exemptions and Anti-discrimination Legislation.”

“Federal Attorney General Christian Porter said the finished ALRC report, now completed, would not be released until at least ‘one year after the Federal Government passes its Religious Freedom Bill.’”

“Given there is no guarantee Christian Porter’s Bill will ever see the light of day or even pass the senate, we have an absurd situation where nothing can change here unless the WA Government steps up on its own just as other states have done,” Greig continued.

“It’s time to stop dodging and weaving on this issue and take decisive action.”

In 2017, Premier McGowan pledged to look into loopholes that allow LGBTIQ+ teachers to be fired, after OUTinPerth reported the sacking of local teacher Craig Campbell from a Western Australian school.

Both Maxine Drake and Brian Greig have written to Attorney General Quigley, urging the state government to provide some security for LGBTIQ+ Western Australians.

“This legislation only requires a two-line amendment, so with six sitting weeks left before the state election, it should be possible for the Government to draft and pass it,” Drake said.

“If the Government doesn’t deal with this issue before the election we will be seeking a rock-solid commitment to reform in the next term of Parliament.”

The federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, which could override state and territory laws, is currently on hold as parliamentarians tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government has signalled no changes to the legislation, which could expand the scope for discrimination against LGBTIQ+ folks in healthcare, housing, the workplace and schools on the basis of faith.

OIP Staff


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