Approximately 250 people attended a rally in Hobart over the weekend to oppose a federal government plan to override and water down Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws.

The rally, held at Parliament Lawns on Saturday, heard from an array of advocates from the LGBTQI, disability and Indigenous communities, as well as women’s health advocates, and former Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks. 

LGBT rights advocate and Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome—who spoke at the rally—said the event highlighted the strengths of Tasmania’s strong anti-discrimination protections, and what Tasmanians stood to lose.

“[The] rally showed the diversity of Tasmanians who have benefitted from our world-leading Anti-Discrimination Act and who will adversely affected if it is watered down by federal intervention,” said Croome.

“[It] called for the state Liberal government and federal Labor to stand up to the federal government meddling with our strong state discrimination protections.”

“It also called for other states, and the Commonwealth, to adopt Tasmania’s anti-discrimination laws, given how effective these laws have been in fostering a fairer and more inclusive community.”

The federal government’s draft Religious Discrimination Bill explicitly overrides section 17 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act—which protects Tasmanians from humiliating, intimidating, and insulting language—by allowing such language if it is in the name of religion.

A similar attempt by the state’s Liberal government to allow hate speech in the name of religion was voted down by the Tasmanian Upper House in 2017.

Croome said he believed the “overwhelming majority” of religious Tasmanians “do not want the legal right to humiliate and intimidate their fellow Tasmanians”.

He said a delegation of Tasmanian community advocates would travel to Canberra next month to lobby federal MPs on the issue. 

The Tasmanian rally is one of a number of similar events which have been held or are planned around Australia. 

In Sydney, a ‘No Religious Right to Discriminate!’ rally will be held outside Sydney Town Hall from 1pm on Saturday, 12 October. 

Organisers from the Community Action on Rainbow Rights group urged all community members to attend.

A spokesperson said: “If the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill passes through parliament, bigots will be handed all new rights to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people. 

“But that would not be all – people of colour, women, people with disabilities and anyone who has ever won protection from discrimination is set to be dragged down by this bigot’s bill of rights. 

“We are calling on all members of the community to protest.”

The rally comes in the wake of similar previous rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. 

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