Attorney-General Christian Porter’s comments promising “powerful” recourse for people of faith under religious discrimination legislation has prompted concern from LGBTI advocates.

Porter today told The Guardian that the bill would include a clause relating to “indirect discrimination” similar to that present in the Sex Discrimination Act.

Equality Australia’s Director of Legal Advocacy Lee Carnie has warned that the proposal could prevent employers from providing safe workplaces.

“Anti-discrimination laws should be a shield, not a sword,” Carnie said.

“It sounds like the Government’s proposal would prevent employers from being able to protect their businesses from the damaging public actions of employees.”

Porter explicitly referenced Israel Folau’s case as an instance of “disadvantaging” a person of faith that the proposed clause would put a stop to.

The clause would prevent employers from including clauses similar to that in Folau’s now-terminated Rugby Australia contract, which inhibited him from expressing his religious views on social media without repercussion.

Porter said it would provide “an overarching rule that places limitations on what an employer could do by way of general rules that affected all of their workforce, if those general rules, in an unfair and unreasonable way, had a negative – or what the legislation calls a disadvantaging – effect on a person of faith.”

“A bill like this would provide a very powerful avenue for someone who believed that a general rule in their employment especially disadvantaged them because of their religion, to argue that that rule was contrary to the act and unfair,” he said.

Carnie said that the proposed laws could make places of work unsafe for LGBTI people and other communities.

“Employers should be able to provide workplaces for all employees that are safe, healthy, and inclusive,” they said.

“The examples given by the Attorney-General show that he plans to go further with religious discrimination laws to interfere with employers’ ability to uphold their values.

“It is imperative that we see the Bill the Attorney-General is referring to.

“This drip feed of incomplete information is causing panic for the communities who could be targeted by this law, such as single mums, divorced people, women and LGBTIQ+ people,” Carnie said.

The government is currently holding internal consultations on the proposed changes, with external consultations to follow.

LGBTI advocates are encouraging members of the community who could be affected to contact the Attorney-General’s office to ask to participate in the consultation.

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