Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong has introduced a bill to remove exemptions from discrimination laws that apply to LGBTI students which will leave staff vulnerable.

The Greens have tabled an amendment to the legislation to ensure that teachers and staff at religious schools are protected from discrimination on the basis of their identity.

Wong introduced the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 as Labor moved on the issue following failed talks with the government on the issue.

The government is looking to preserve schools’ religious freedoms in its own considerations, including rules like compelling students to attend religious services, SBS reported.

“We think that’s a very reasonable protection for religious schools and they consider that is very important to the way in which they conduct their affairs,” said Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Australian Greens LGBTIQ+ spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said that Labor’s bill doesn’t go far enough.

“Labor and the Morrison government must support the Greens amendments to include teachers and staff,” Rice said.

“It’s clear from the title of Labor’s bill that it will only end discrimination against students and that religious schools would still be able to fire LGBTQ+ teachers and other staff, just for being who they are.

“Labor needs to join the Greens in protecting teachers now. Not next year, not after the next election. No ifs, no buts, no more delays. We need to pass these reforms now.

“We can’t afford any further delay before removing discrimination. Schools should be discrimination-free zones for all people, regardless of whether they are are a student or a staff member,” said Rice.

LGBTI advocates joined Rice in calling on Labor to join the push for discrimination exemptions to extend beyond students.

“Labor’s push to protect LGBTI kids from discrimination is very welcome, but it must also protect LGBTI teachers and other school workers,” said just.equal’s Rodney Croome.

“Labor is the party of worker rights so it should stand up for workers in religious schools and not throw them under the school bus.”

Labor’s bill is expected to force the government to introduce their own legislation, with few parliament sitting days remaining in the year.

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