It may have been pouring rain, but that didn’t stop hundreds gathering on Saturday in Sydney’s CBD and marching through the streets to protest the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.
The proposed bill has been slammed by the LGBTQIA+ community due to concerns over the bill ‘legalising discrimination’ and ‘preventing access to essential services’.
Speeches were made outside Sydney Town Hall by community leaders, followed by a march through the streets to Hyde Park.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens Senator for NSW, spoke to the protesters in support of ‘killing this bill’, saying:
“This bill is not about religious freedoms, this bill is actually about unleashing hate, bigotry and xenophobia.”
“This bill will legally protect the hate that we all faced during the marriage equality plebiscite.”
Shelley Argent, National Spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PLAG), said to the sea of rainbow-coloured umbrellas:
“What’s worse than this present Government and its horrendous right wing plans, is the Labour Party sitting just on their hands, unsure of which way to turn.”
Argent then turned her attention to the Christians who vocally support this bill.
“I wonder how some of them sleep at night with the nastiness that swirls in their heads.”
“How can they isolate and intimidate and just plain insult people without any concern about the impact of their mental health or self-esteem. This to me is not Christian behaviour.”
Prominent Muslim lawyer Lydia Shelley also addressed the protestors.
“This bill will enshrine discrimination and prejudice into law,” she said.
“It will provide economic rewards for discriminating against others, it will cause further cultural, religious and economic divides that will benefit the rich, entrench privilege and it will maintain ideological ghettos.”
April Holcombe from Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR), the organisation that hosted the event, pointed out the inequity of the bill.
“This bill will disproportionately affect LGBTI people, women, people with disabilities, and minority faiths.”
“Whether it’s getting and keeping a job, going to school, going to the doctor, hospital, pharmacy, accessing charity or social services, or having a safe and welcoming workplace. All of these rights will be trumped by the privilege for bigots to spew their hate.”
Some protesters had travelled hours to attend the rally to voice their concern for the proposed bill.
Ed Abbott, 26, from Newcastle spoke to the Star Observer at the protest.
“It’s our responsibility as Australian citizens to fight for people who these laws are going to directly affect.”
Anthea, 68, from Wollongong also spoke to The Star Observer at the protest. “Religious freedom is a good thing, but it mustn’t be at the expense of other people.”
For all of the Star Observer’s coverage of the Religious Discrimination Bill, please click here.
For all of the Star Observer’s news coverage, click here.