Community calls for end to LGBTI discrimination on religious grounds

Politicians, entertainers, activists and religious leaders have come together to draw attention to the wide range of Australians who do not want to see new religious freedom laws implemented in Australia fearing it will lead to an increase in discrimination against LGBTI people.

Comedian Tom Ballard, journalist Helen Razer, PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent and the 78ers, who formed the first Mardi Gras parade, are among 100 individuals and organisations calling on the Morrison government to listen to the concerns of everyday Australians.

LGBTI equality advocates have welcomed a community statement calling for an end to laws that allow religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTI people.

The statement was organised by Community Activists Against Homophobia and was signed by over 100 community organisations, activists and prominent personalities

It comes ahead of Government’s religious discrimination and freedom legislation which advocates fear may undermine discrimination protections for LGBTI people.

Just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said the Morrison government needed to realise that the wider Australian community were not going to accept proposals for discrimination to be allowed on the basis of religious belief.

“Just as LGBTI Australians did not stand for inequality in marriage, we will not abide attacks on our rights and dignity under the cover of ‘religious freedom’.”

“For over twenty years, my home state of Tasmania has prohibited anti-LGBTI discrimination by all religious organisations and anti-LGBTI hate speech in the name of religion, without the sky falling in.” Croome said.

“I want all LGBTI Australians to have the same level of legally-guaranteed safety and inclusion LGBTI Tasmanians enjoy.”

“We call on both major parties to rule out ‘religious freedom’ being used to undo the gains made with marriage equality, and to commit to removing exemptions in national law that allow discrimination in God’s name.”

National PFLAG spokesperson, Shelley Argent OAM, said parents of LGBTI youth were concerned about the suggestions that new laws were needed that could potentially allow discrimination to occur.

“When LGBTI people face discrimination and hatred, God weeps. The Bible should never be used as a weapon of abuse against anyone, including LGBTI people.” Argent said.

“When some religious leaders talk about ‘religious freedom’ what they mean is maintaining their power and privilege to disadvantage and vilify our LGBTI children.”

“As parents of LGBTI people we are determined to foster a society where everyone has equal rights and protections.”

“That means not allowing discrimination and hate speech across the board, including by people who say they speak in the name of God.”

Joint Statement on Religious Exemptions

We call on the Coalition and Labor to commit to removing all anti-discrimination exemptions that allow religious organisations to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, sex and gender identity, and to rule out proposed new exemptions and protections, including in the proposed ‘Religious Discrimination Act’.

Students and workers are currently denied their right to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity at school and work, without risking expulsion, discrimination, or the sack. In particular, because of the current legal situation, many teachers working in religious schools remain closeted.

The current ban in many religious schools on being openly LGBTQIA prevents young people from growing up with role models who reflect a cross section of the community, and suggests there is something inherently problematic about LGBTQIA folk being in contact with young people.

In some states and territories, students and workers in faith based schools are protected from discrimination regardless of their sexuality, sex or gender expression, this standard should apply on a national basis.

Religious exemptions are not about freedom of religion or speech, they’re about retaining laws that make people second-class citizens, restricting access to education, employment, and other services.

Once again, just like marriage equality, Australia has fallen behind numerous countries that long ago abolished this form of discrimination. Legal discrimination, particularly funded by government grants, emboldens homophobes, transphobes and intersexphobes, signalling that their bigotry is acceptable.

The recent election was not a win for the forces against LGBTQIA equality. In the recent postal survey 133 electorates returned a clear majority in favour of marriage equality. All subsequent polling indicates that even more people support the removal of religious exemptions than marriage equality itself.

YouGov polling indicates 79% support removing exemptions for discrimination against staff, and 82% support removing exemptions for discrimination against students. Earlier reports by Equality Australia indicate that even 67% of LNP voters, and 77% of ALP voters support removing these exemptions.

In 2018, the Ruddock Religious Freedom review endorsed the right of religious organisations to expel students and fire LGBTQIA teachers. It explicitly treated this minority groupas second class citizens, calling for an end to some exemptions in the law, but not exemptions allowing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In response to a major community outcry, the Prime Minister committed to end religious discrimination against students before the end of the year. The Opposition Leader of the time made further commitments.

Since that time there have been Senate Inquiries in favour of ending religious discrimination, and petitions with over 50,000 signatories submitted to parliament. However, we are still waiting for action from parliament.

The leaders of both major parties should commit to removing all exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act that allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex or gender identity, and rule out any new exemptions in the proposed Religious Discrimination Act.

Community Action Against Homophobia
Rodney Croome
Rev. Becky Bauer, Melbourne Inclusive Church
Tom Ballard
Jenny Leong, NSW Greens State MP for Newtown
Sex and Gender Education (SAGE) Australia
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Leichhardt Uniting Church
Equal Love Melbourne
Equality Tasmania
Shelley Argent
just.equal
First Mardi Gras
The Original 78ers Collective
Katherine Wolfgramme, Trans Advocate & Gender Diversity Consultant
Trans Health Australia
Australian Catholics for Equality
Pauline Pantsdown
National Union of Students
National Union of Students Queer/LGBTI Department
Doug Pollard, editor of The Stirrer
James Brechney, DIY Rainbow
Helen Razer, journalist
Roz Ward, co founder of Safe Schools
Norrie mAy-Welby
Young Labor Left Victoria
NSW Young Greens
Greens Senator for NSW Dr Mehreen Faruqi
Asian Australian Rainbow Alliance
Ben Cooper
Rev. Karl Hand, Crave Church, Sydney.
Rev. Dale Yardy, Metropolitan Community Church, Sydney
Rev. Robert Clark, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Good Shepherd, Granville
Rev. Alex Pittaway, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church, Brisbane
Rev. Sue Townsend, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church, Melbourne
PJ Dwyer, President, Metropolitan Community Church Welfare Services
Equal Voices
Damien Stevens-Todd, Uniting Church member and Uniting Network Australia – Vic rep
Saskia Mason, University of Western Australia Pride Officer
Steff Fenton,Equal Voices
Sydney University Queer Action Collective
Newcastle University Queer Collective
Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire
Giti Datt, co-founder of FOBGAYS+ (Friends and Families Of Brown, South Asian Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender, Intersex & Asexual+ Peoples)
Cedric Cheung, CEO of ANTRA (Australia and New Zealand Tongzhi Rainbow Alliance)
Charbel Zada, President of the Macquarie University Queer Collective
Sydney Queer And Disability Community Group
Bridge Truell, Queer Officer, Curtin Student Guild – Queer Department
The Gay Mafia Australia
Douglas Clifford
Jazzlyn Breen, Co-convener of Sydney University Women’s Collective and Sexual Harassment Officer
Paul Harvey
Peta Hay
Ricki Coughlan, trans advocate and champion athlete
Liz Ross, author of Revolution is for Us: the left and the gay liberation movement
Dashie Prasad, co-convenor Australian Queer Students’ Network (AQSN)
Reclaim the Streets, Sydney
Jack London
Peta Friend, trans advocate
Elytta Manton, Lismore activist & Bundjalong sistergirl
Tim Blackman, queer teacher and union activist
Mark Nowicki, teacher
Emmanuel Monteiro, teacher
Moira Nolan, teacher
Pete Davidson, teacher
Wendy Bacon, journalist
Jamie Parker Greens NSW MP for Balmain
Garry Wotherspoon, author and historian, awarded the Centenary of Australia Medal for his work as an academic, researcher, and human rights activist
David Menadue, awarded OAM for services to people with HIV
Dr Sophie Robinson, Secretary – Pride History Group
Dr Scott McKinnon, Historian
Peter Murphy, Co-chair 78er Collective
Titi Chartay, Co-chair 78er Collective
Gai Egg, 78er
William Brougham, LGBTI activist and film maker
David Urquart, photo artist & Sydney gay activist
Michael Schembri, Sydney gay left activist
Chloe Rafferty, President of Wollongong Undergraduate Student Association
Hersha Kadkol, NUS National Ethno-Cultural Officer
Madeleine Powell, NUS Campus Rep for University of Sydney
Caitlin Keogh, UNSW Education Officer
Shovan Bhattarai, NUS Campus Rep for UNSW
Sage Jupe, NUS Campus Representative for University of South Australia
Leila Clendon, NUS Campus Representative for Adelaide University
Peter Burrell-Sander, University of Sydney Queer Officer
Vinil Kumar, Mature Age Officer, University of Sydney SRC
Anne-Marie Delahunt, ACT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Ministerial Advisory Council chair
Anni Dale, Rainbow Refugee Action Campaign
Meg Clarke, Rainbow Refugee Action Campaign
Rainbow Refugee Action Campaign
Sam Elkin, LGBTIQ outreach lawyer, St Kilda Legal Service
Bunyip Wallows / Paul Hannagan
Lee Rhiannon, Former Greens NSW Senator
David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP
Abigail Boyd, NSW Greens MP
The Greens NSW
Dr Anni Dugdale
Ollie Henderson
Paul Gregoire, Writer/Journalist
T Fortune, single mother
Trans Action Warrang
Max Tran, Queer Convenor, Newcastle University Students’ Association’s Queer Collective


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