Attorney General’s response is a “cop out” say LGBTI rights advocates

Advocates for Western Australia’s LGBTI community have rejected claims by State Attorney General, John Quigley, that he is unable to stop discrimination against gay teachers and students until he considers a Commonwealth review into Religious Freedom established by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Spokesperson, Brian Greig, said Mr Quigley’s excuse was a “cop –out”, and that the agenda of the State Labor Government should not be driven by the Federal Liberal Government’s priorities.

Quigley has written to the lobby group, saying that he will do nothing about the loophole in WA’s Equal Opportunity Act until he considers the outcome of the Federal review chaired by former Howard Government Minister, Phillip Ruddock, in April next year.

“The Attorney General has no excuses not to act immediately on fixing this State law,” Greig said.

“The issue in WA is about LGBTI discrimination, not religious freedom, and the Ruddock inquiry was prompted by concerns about marriage equality, not State discrimination laws.

“It is nonsense to try and link reform of the State’s Equal Opportunity Act with the Religious Freedom inquiry set up by Malcolm Turnbull under pressure from the No Campaign when they lost the public vote on marriage equality,” he said.

Under WA law, church schools have the unfettered right to sack gay teachers, expel LGBTI students and refuse enrolment from same-sex families.

The issue gained prominence in recent weeks when OUTinPerth shared the story of gay teacher, Craig Campbell, who lost his employment at South Coast Baptist College after the school became aware of his sexuality.

Greig said the change that needed to be made to the state’s anti-discrimination laws was a simple one.

“All that is required is a one-sentence amendment to Section 73.3 of the WA Equal Opportunity Act that strips private and church schools of the right to discriminate on the grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender History and Marital Status – it can be drafted in ten minutes,” Greig said.

Spokesperson for Parents and Friends and Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG Perth), Michele Davis, said the Attorney failed to appreciate the urgent need for reform.

“We now have the extraordinary situation where same-sex couples can legally marry from 9 January 2018, but those same people can legally be sacked from their jobs at private and church schools the very next day, because of the loophole in WA law.

“Tasmania abolished this discrimination 20 years ago and WA should abolish it in January next year. We don’t need any inquiries to tell us that this discrimination is totally unacceptable,” Davis said.

Spokesperson for the Same-Sex Parents Association, Maxine Drake, said it was disappointing the Attorney had also declined to meet with representatives of the LGBTI community to discuss this discrimination in schools.

“We wrote to the Premier in early November to raise this issue through a meeting and it was hand-balled to Mr Quigley. After six weeks the Attorney replied saying he declined to meet with us and won’t consider doing so until he looks at the unrelated Ruddock review set up to appease religious conservatives.

“The Labor Party must do better than this. It can’t march in the Pride Parade and wave rainbow flags one minute, and then the next minute make excuses about why it won’t respond to the urgent need for law reform to protect LGBTI teachers, students and families,” Drake said.

The advocates have written back to the Attorney, rejecting his claim that further delay is required and that reform hinges on the Ruddock review of Religious Freedom. They have asked for a meeting in the New Year.

“We intend to fully pursue this campaign for LGBTI law reform in the New Year and will not be distracted by red herrings or dissuaded from pressing ahead,” Maxine Drake said.

OIP Staff

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