LGBTQI faith groups are complaining about the short deadline given by the Morrison Government to lodge submissions on its draft Religious Discrimination Bill and the lack of consultation with them and other LGBTQI community advocates.

LGBTQI non-denominal Christian network Equal Voices and the Uniting Church LGBTIQ Network both expressed their concerns to the Star Observer about the October 2 deadline for people to make their views known on the legislation.

Uniting Network co-convenor the Rev. Peter Weeks said he saw no need for federal law to be updated in the way the government is proposing.

“It is our view that there is no need or demonstrable evidence for new religious freedom legislation,” Rev. Weeks said.

“It is our position that existing legislation that permits discrimination against LGBTIQ people in religious organisations is not only wrong but not theologically sustainable.”

“The … Government put the LGBTIQ community through an unnecessary and vitriolic postal survey campaign over an extended time period. That process created significant mental health issues for the LGBTIQ community that are still reverberating within the community today.”

“The Ruddock Inquiry was held in secret, and the final report withheld from the community for an extended period. During the development of these proposed pieces of legislation, there has been extensive consultations with communities of faith in developing these drafts, however there has been no consultation with the LGBTIQ community, who are the clear targets of these draft legislation.”

Weeks questioned why the consultation process on this new legislation needed to be rushed when the LGBTQI community had been subjected to such a drawn out process.

“There is just over a month for the community to comment on the exposure drafts which are extensive and their implication to the LGBTIQ community potentially severe,” Rev. Weeks said.

“We strongly call on the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to undertake a significant consultation period with the LGBTIQ community and delay any attempts to bring legislation to Parliament until the middle of 2020 at the earliest.”

Weeks’ comments were echoed by Equal Voices spokesperson, The Rev. Dr Josephine Inkpin, who called on Scott Morrison and Christian Porter to expand the deadline for consultation on the draft legislation.

“Equal Voices calls upon the Prime Minister and Attorney General to significantly expand the consultation process for the proposed Religious Freedom Legislation,” Rev. Inkpin said.

“We therefore request a delay in the introduction of any legislation until the middle of next year at the earliest.”

“As far as we know, there has not been any consultation in drafting this legislation with LGBTIAQ+ groups or LGBTIAQ+ communities of faith. These pieces of legislation appear clearly aimed at the LGBTIAQ+ community in response to the introduction of the Marriage Equality laws in 2017, which were overwhelmingly supported by the Australian population.”

“The Attorney General has not been able, in our view, to adequately demonstrate the need for such legislation, nor is there justification for this last-minute speed, especially given the serious lack of consultation. The Liberal-National Coalition Government has already put the LGBTIAQ+ community through significant pain and anguish as a result of its unnecessary and extended postal survey process. This latest proposed legislation is likely to have a much more pervasive impact on Australian society and simply hasn’t been subject to real consultation or review.”

“More concerningly, in rushing this legislation through, the Government has failed to address the issues of LGBTIAQ+ children and teachers in schools, which in 2018 was a first-order urgent issue. This crucially important matter has been deferred until after this legislation has legislation has been passed, leaving LGBTIAQ+ students and teachers at risk.”

“It is our view that existing privileges to religious organisations should be removed rather than expended.”

If you would like to make a submission on the draft Religious Discrimination bill or any of the related amendments you can do so via the Attorney General’s website at https://www.ag.gov.au/Consultations/Pages/religious-freedom-bills.aspx

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