Activists have slammed the draft Religious Discrimination Bill released today by the Morrison Government and have called on members of the LGBTQI community and their allies to join Saturday’s demonstration at 1pm at the State Library of Victoria to give voice to their concerns.

Long-time marriage equality campaigner Ali Hogg and Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward called the rally in response to the government’s initial proposals. Now that they have seen the details of the bill say say their fears were well founded.

“Far from the ‘cautious approach’ flagged earlier by the government, these bills entrench and extend existing rights to discriminate against the LBGTI+ community,” Ali Hogg said.

 

“The draft bill explicitly overrides existing Tasmanian human rights laws preventing discrimination against LBGTI+ people. It is unacceptable that it will restrict access to government-funded services for LGBTI+ people and women, including welfare and reproductive health services, by allowing ‘conscientious objections’ by practitioners and institutions on religious grounds.”

“The bill states that ‘discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity continues to be regulated by the Sex Discrimination Act.’ Yet this act already includes exemptions for religious bodies and educational establishments to “discriminate on the basis of certain attributes”.

“Religious schools will retain the right to expel LGBTI+ students or refuse to employ LGBTI+ teachers. Religious organisations are being empowered at a federal level to turn LGBTI+ people away from essential public services including hospitals, housing, and aged-care and disability support,” said Roz Ward.

The activists say the creation of a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission is a further signal that the Morrison government is seeking to appease the religious right.

It has rejected calls for the establishment of an LGBTQI Commissioner and, while more than 20 religious bodies have been included in discussions, there have been no formal consultation with LGBTQI organisations on the bill to date.

Organisers say these moves go directly against public opinion.

In 2018, a YouGov Galaxy Poll found that four-out-of-five Australians oppose the “freedom” of religious schools to exclude LGBTIQI students and staff – an even greater number than supported marriage equality in the 2017 postal plebiscite.

Following protests against religious exemptions in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, organisers say this rally signals “the start of a new wave of resistance to anti-LGBTI+ discrimination.”

Ward and Hogg are urgently calling on LGBTIQI organisations, activists and supporters to join the rally at the State Library of Victoria at 1pm on August 31 to demonstrate that the LGBTQI community are prepared to defend their rights against homophobic and transphobic attacks.

“We encourage everyone who can to join us on Saturday to say that nobody should be given the right to discriminate, and that we will continue to fight against homophobia and transphobia in all forms,” Ali Hogg said.

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