Equality advocates have presented the Ruddock religious freedom review with a petition calling for the repeal of all anti-discrimination exemptions that allow LGBTI people to be sacked or refused service by religious schools, hospitals and welfare agencies.

Advocacy group just.equal this week submitted almost 5,500 signatures opposing discrimination in the name of religious freedom, as part of its submission to the religious freedom review chaired by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

“It is vital that the Ruddock inquiry see that substantial numbers of people are alert to the way in which ‘religious freedom’ is being used and abused to justify discrimination,” said just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome.

“We thank all those people who stood up for equality by signing the just.equal petition.

“In the US, ‘religious freedom’ is being used as camouflage to weaken discrimination protections against LGBTI people, and many Australians do not want to see that culture war imported here.

“As well as opposing any new discrimination exemptions, the petition calls for the removal of existing exemptions that allow discrimination against LGBTI people.”

Croome said that there are examples in Australia of laws that do not allow discrimination specifically against LGBTI people.

“For twenty years, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act has operated well without any LGBTI-specific exemptions and we believe it should be adopted as a model by other states and the Commonwealth,” he said.

The review is currently holding non-public hearings in various state capitals.

One witness to the hearings has alleged that the proceedings are biased against LGBTI people, and aim to further “entrench” discrimination rather than fight it, Junkee has reported.

ACT government LGBTIQ Ministerial Advisory Council member Suzanne Eastwood said the review was focusing on gay men in particular, discussing concerns about homosexuality being “promoted” to children.

“I didn’t feel like they were looking for answers about how to reduce discrimination,” Eastwood said.

“It was more about how to prop up and justify discrimination. There was no question that any type of discrimination would be reduced.

“It was more along the lines of, ‘how will discrimination be even more entrenched than it is now?’”

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