Rainbow Rights WA back calls for review of state’s anti-discrimination laws

Political advocacy group Rainbow Rights WA have joined other LGBTI+ rights groups in calling on the state government to review Western Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

Currently the state has clauses which allow religious bodies, including schools, to fire staff if they believe that the staff member is homosexual. The laws apply to all employees of institutions run by religious bodies regardless of what role the employee is undertaking.

The exemptions also allow students to be expelled from schools if they are found to be same-sex attracted, while there have also been cases of schools threatening to expel students because one of their parents is gay.

The issue has been raised by LGBTI rights advocates including former Democrats Senator Brian Greig, alongside representatives from the Same Sex Families Association and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Now Rainbow Rights WA have added their voice to the calls for the government to address the issue. Jonathon Mann, the Chairperson of the group says the issue should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Whilst a comprehensive review of all state legislation is required, the issue of private religious schools ability to discriminate against people living their natural loving lives should be dealt with as a matter of urgency. A person’s sexuality does not impact on their ability to teach a class.” Mann said.

“Rainbow Rights WA believes the laws should be changed, they are out of touch with modern community standards, these laws affect more than LGBTI+ people, a teacher can be terminated for any religious reason, including simply living with your partner out of wedlock.”

Premier Mark McGowan has referred queries about the issue to Attorney General John Quigley, but the state’s top law officer says his hands are tied by the federal government’s Ruddock Review into religious freedoms in Australia. His response has been labeled a “cop out” by Brian Greig who highlighted the laws in questions are state based and no under federal jurisdiction.

Rainbow Rights also expressed concern about reports indicating that teacher’s working in some Catholic schools had already been sent letters warning them that their employment could be terminated if they took advantage of recent changes to the marriage laws.

“The reports of some schools warning staff of loss of employment on the grounds of their legal marriage status is arcane and unjust.” Mann said, “It shows a flagrant disregard of individual rights and the personal freedoms of LGBTI+ people and it should be unlawful.

“Many of these employees will be facing some difficult decisions in the coming months. Quite frankly it is absurd that someone can be legally married one day and then legally fired because of that marriage the next.”

Earlier this year the reality of Western Australia’s exemptions for religious bodies was given a human face when school teacher Craig Campbell revealed that he’d been ‘let go’ by South Coast Baptist College after they became aware of his sexuality.

Graeme Watson

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