The Scott Morrison government is on track to bring back its controversial Religious Discrimination Bill before the Parliament by December 2021. 

Attorney General Michaelia Cash, who voted this week to delay medical treatment for trans children, has indicated that a fresh draft of the Bill will be placed before the Parliament by the end of the year. The Federal elections are scheduled to be held in 2022.

Religious organisations have been clamouring for a law that will remove protections for LGBTQI+ people, and their target reportedly includes Victoria’s new law that bans the so called gay conversion therapy. 

“Our government takes the issue of discrimination against Australians on the grounds of their religious beliefs seriously,” Senator Cash told The Australian. Senator Cash told the publication that  she was meeting stakeholders to gather their inputs so that the Bill could be considered by the Parliament before the end of the year. 

‘Protect All Australians’

LGBTQI+ rights organisations have asked the government to bring a law that removes the exemptions for faith-based organisations, so that they are no longer allowed to discriminate against LGBTQI+ persons. 

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“Our laws should protect us all, equally. But right now, federal laws still allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers, students and staff to be fired, expelled or treated unfairly by faith-based schools and education institutions, simply because of their sexual or gender identity,” Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia, said in a statement. 

“Instead of prioritising laws that privilege religious institutions and entrench new forms of discrimination, the new Attorney-General should deliver on the government’s 2018 commitment to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students at religious schools, and focus on winding back outdated exemptions that allow religious institutions to treat people unfairly because of who they are or whom they love.”

Religious Organisations Campaign For Law

Faith-based organisations across Australia are launching high profile campaigns to get the Morrison government to fulfill its 2019 election promise to enact a Religious Discrimination law. Last weekend, Freedom For Faith group organised Religious Freedom Weekend, in an attempt to rally around religious voters. The group asked people to contact their federal members and Senators to put forward their demands. 

“Now that Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has resumed consultations with religious groups, Freedom for Faith is calling on the Government to follow through on their promise to pass the Religious Discrimination Bill before the next election,” the group said in a press statement. 

“A robust Religious Discrimination Act will guarantee perfectly reasonable protections for the consciences of individuals, and the established purposes of institutions. Average Australians of faith deserve the space to live-out their deeply held convictions in public,” said the organisation’s Executive Director Rohan McHugh.

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Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the The Australian Christian Lobby in a Facebook post said that the Lobby had held meetings recently with “more than 40 members, senators and staffers in the government party room”. 

‘Draft Is Deeply Flawed’

The current draft of the Bill prepared by former Attorney General Christian Porter, was characterised as “deeply flawed” by LGBTQI+ advocates, but had failed to meet the approval of many faith-based organisations as well.

The draft Bill would have allowed health care providers to refuse services to LGBTQI+ people and overrode many of the anti-discrimination laws enacted by states. 

“The federal government’s current draft Religious Discrimination Bill is deeply flawed, containing  unprecedented and dangerous provisions that would undermine access to healthcare and inclusive  workplaces. That’s why such a broad chorus of voices spoke out against the bill, from industry,  unions, people of faith, women, people with a disability and LGBTIQ+ people,” added Brown.

 

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