Victorian Premier Dan Andrews on Tuesday said that his government would defend the state’s laws that protect gay and trans students from discrimination in faith-based schools. 

Couple of days after he marched in the annual Midsumma Pride march, Andrews indicated that his government would challenge the Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill if it overrides the state’s anti-discrimination laws. 

“I think everybody should be treated fairly properly. And that’s exactly the arrangements that we have in place,” said Andrews.

The Andrews-led Labor government has passed a number of LGBTQI law reforms in Parliament. In December 2021, Victoria’s Parliament passed long overdue reforms to prohibit religious schools from refusing to hire or sack teachers and staff for being LGBTQI.

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In early 2021, the state banned so-called gay conversion therapy practices. The government has also amended laws to allow trans and gender diverse Victorians to change the sex recorded on their birth certificates without having to undergo invasive and costly sex affirmation surgeries.

Victorians Want Equality

The Premier pointed out that the Labor had won the elections on its promise to deliver protections and law reforms for the LGBTQI community. “We’re delivering them, because that’s what Victorians voted for.” 

Andrews referred to state Attorney General Jaclyn Symes’ statement about launching a legal challenge to the Religious Discrimination Bill if it overrides state anti-discrimination laws. 

“We would use any and all legal avenues to defend those who want to be treated fairly and equally and might not be under any arrangements,” said Andrews. “These (Victoria’s LGBTQI law reforms) are exactly the laws that Victorians voted for,” the Premier said at his daily media press briefing. 

‘Not A Matter Of Choice’

“Everyone should be treated equally,” Andrews reiterated, when asked about the federal government’s new proposal to protect gay students, but allow faith-based schools to retain the right to expel trans students

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The Scott Morrison-led Federal government is reportedly planning to amend the draft of its Bill, with a view to get over the opposition of some moderate Liberals. The new proposal will prohibit faith-based schools from expelling gay students but will allow them expel trans students.

“People’s identity is not a matter of choice. Who you are is who you are, who you love is a matter for you. And you should be treated fairly and equitably and you should not be discriminated against based on who you are. That’s just my view and that also happens to be the view of the Victorian community…,” the Premier said.

In 2020, Andrews Premier had delivered a historic apology in the Parliament apologising to those convicted under laws that criminalised homosexual acts. The state will commemorate the the 40th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality with Melbourne Pride, a one-day street party on February 13, 2022.

On Sunday, the government unveiled Victoria’s first long-term plan for LGBTIQ+ equality, that has identified four areas of reforms our areas of reform, including “protecting equal rights and freedoms, making services more equitable, inclusive, and accessible, building evidence to drive decision making and ensuring LGBTIQ+ communities are safe and strong”.

The Andrews Labor Government also committed to an immediate $6.5 million investment to make organisations safer and more inclusive for LGBTQI Victorians.

Scrap Religious Discrimination Bill

Equality Australia has called on the Federal Parliament to scrap the Bill. “Discrimination against any child is always wrong. This government’s reported proposal fails to protect gay students from discrimination. By narrowly focussing on expulsion, gay kids can still be punished or harmed at school by being suspended, given detention or told they need to change or suppress their sexuality,”Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, said in a statement.  

Olympic gold medalist and swimmer Ian Thorpe is fronting a new Equality Australia campaign against the Religious Discrimination Bill.

“I was brought up in a Christian home and believe that people of faith should be able to live according to their beliefs and be protected from discrimination, but this Bill goes further, allowing discrimination against not just LGBTIQ+ people, but women, people with disability and other people of faith. It amounts to state-sponsored discrimination,” Thorpe said in a statement.

“The Parliament must come together to oppose this Bill, and the government must go back to the drawing board to deliver laws that protect all of us, equally,” added Thorpe.  

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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