Pressures to protect gay students and teachers | Review of northern beaches
The federal government is under pressure from within its own ranks to ensure that teachers cannot be fired and students expelled because of their sexuality or gender identity.
The introduction of the government’s religious discrimination bill that would give the green light to denominational hiring has fueled the momentum for greater protection for LGBTQI + people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison maintains that nothing in the bill would allow discrimination against students on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.
This is because this issue falls under the Gender Discrimination Act, which is under review by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
“My point of view on this has not changed. Gay students should not be expelled from religious schools, and gay teachers who have been employed in these schools should not be fired either,” Mr. Morrison to reporters Thursday.
Moderate Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman does not see why the government cannot speed up changes to the sex discrimination law.
“I don’t see why, especially when it comes to students, a relatively simple solution can’t come sooner,” he told the ABC.
“It’s still very difficult for a lot of young people. The question is, what message is the government sending by kicking the road the way it is?”
Labor wants the issue of student protection and the religious discrimination bill to be considered.
“It takes time for a proper examination of these questions, both the question of how pupils are treated in school and the question of religious discrimination,” Labor Senator Jenny McAllister said.
Mr Morrison had previously said faith and freedom were inseparable when introducing the religious discrimination bill to the federal Parliament.
This would mean that people who express their religious beliefs do not fall under existing anti-discrimination legislation.
But these expressions cannot be malicious or seen by a reasonable person as threatening, intimidating, harassing or vilifying.
Religious schools might favor hiring people of a particular faith as long as it is a publicly stated policy.
“People should not be annulled, persecuted or vilified because their beliefs are different from anyone else’s in a free liberal democratic society like Australia,” the Prime Minister said.
“Australians shouldn’t have to worry about looking over their shoulders for fear of offending an anonymous person on Twitter… or breaking the political or social tune of the times.”
LGBTQI + rights group Equality Australia fears the bill will pave the way for people to say harmful, insulting and demeaning things currently considered discrimination.
But the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, had wanted religious protections to go further.
“This more limited bill will always be an important recognition of the rights of people with a religious faith to express their religious beliefs and to engage in religious activities,” he said.
Australian Associated Press