The New South Wales Greens have announced their plans to introduce a private members bill that would amend the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act to protect LGBTI people from discrimination by religious bodies.
The bill – set to be introduced next week by education spokesperson and member Tamara Smith – would remove the current exemptions allowing religious schools and organisations to discriminate against members of the LGBTI community.
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong believes the act provides a loophole, giving religious bodies in the state the right to discriminate.
“[The act] exempts them entirely from our anti-discrimination legislation,” she told the Star Observer.
“In short, when you look at all of our states when it comes to this, New South Wales is the worst.
“It is basically state-sanctioned discrimination.”
The move follows recent news that the Philip Ruddock-led religious freedom review has recommended changes to the federal Sex Discrimination Act, allowing religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.
While the full report is yet to be released, a number of pro-LGBTI religious organisations have already begun to speak out against the recommendations, with some highlighting the disproportionate rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide in the LGBTI community.
Leong said the NSW Greens private member’s bill will be introduced next week with a debate likely to commence in November. She added that federal Greens leader Richard di Natale will move to make similar amendments to federal anti-discrimination laws.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
“There’s no justification for homophobia or transphobia in our community, and it doesn’t matter who you are.
“In terms of the religious freedom review, if we want to properly protect people’s rights in Australia, the best way to do that will be to introduce and enact a human rights act on a national level, then we can look at protecting the rights of all people.”
Education spokesperson and MP Tamara Smith said the state should be removing exemptions for religious schools from anti-discrimination laws, rather than promoting them.
“Schools that are in receipt of public, taxpayer funding should not have the right to discriminate against any student or staff member from the LGBTI community, or on any other grounds,” she said.
“Schools should be welcoming places which support learning and acceptance, not a means to discriminate against students or teachers.”