Victoria moves to protect LGBTQ+ staff at religious schools & organisations

Australian LGBTQIA+ advocates have welcomed the news this week that the Andrews Government are moving to close gaps in discrimination laws for LGBTQIA+ Victorians.

Currently, religious organisations and schools can sack or refuse to hire LGBTQ+ people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, where this is deemed incompatible with the religious beliefs practiced by that school or body.

The reforms will narrow these exceptions, making it unlawful for religious bodies and schools to discriminate against an employee because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attribute.

“People shouldn’t have to hide who they are to keep their job. We’re closing this unfair, hurtful gap in our laws so that Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community won’t have to pretend to be someone they’re not, just to do the job they love,” Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said of the announcement.

“These laws strike the right balance between protecting the LGBTIQ+ community from discrimination and supporting the fundamental rights of religious bodies and schools to practice their faith.”

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown has celebrated the commitment, saying “everyone deserves to live, work and study with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

“Today’s announcement is the latest demonstration of the Andrews Government’s leadership and commitment to equality, including for LGBTIQ+ people,” Brown said.

“By winding back outdated carve-outs in antidiscrimination laws, the Victorian Government can ensure that people in Victoria can no longer be sacked, expelled, or treated unfairly by religious organisations such as school or service providers, simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Deb James, General Secretary, Independent Education Union Victoria Tasmania, adds: “Every worker should be confident that they are safe in their workplace, and be treated fairly by their employer, and judged only by their capacity to fulfill their role, not by their gender or sexual orientation.”

“Many of our members have been subject to discrimination in the workplace, dismissed simply because of who they are or whom they love. These outdated laws have robbed students of skilled teachers, who also make schools inclusive and welcoming spaces for LGBTIQ+ students.”

Equality Australia welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment to ensuring the laws protect LGBTQ+ people working and studying in religious schools, as well as people working in or seeking to access services made available to the public by government funded, faith-based organisations.

“Victoria’s laws are currently out of step with 21st century community expectations and the practices of many faith-based organisations who have diverse workforces and seek to treat people with dignity and respect”, said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.

“Unless a person’s religion is actually relevant to their role or their needs, faith-based organisations should treat all their employees and the people who rely on their services fairly and without discrimination.

However, Equality Australia wants to see the government’s proposed changes simplified so that they apply to any service provided by a faith-based organisation to the public.

“Whether a faith-based organisation receives direct government funding or sources donations relying on its tax-deductible status to provide a service should not determine whether or not they can discriminate,” Brown continued.

“It certainly doesn’t change the experience for a person who is turned away or treated unfairly because of their sexuality or gender.”

OIP Staff

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