Religious loopholes ‘will close’

Religious loopholes ‘will close’

Former High Court justice Michael Kirby has declared that anti-discrimination loopholes that allow religious groups to discriminate against GLBTI people in the businesses they own and the services they provide will come to an end one day.

“I would never want to force religious people to marry gay people if that was their religious understanding,” Kirby said, noting that such understandings change over time.

“But I think the question is how far does that respect for religion go once religion gets into the marketplace of activities that are societal activities and, at least arguably, running hospitals, running welfare agencies, running schools are societal activities.

“I suspect, in due course, the law in most civilised countries will move to respecting the temple but saying outside the temple you are in society and you have to conform to social norms.

“If it is shown that prejudice against GLBTI people is a primitive, ignorant, unscientific, irrational attitude then at least where you get into informing young minds or healing the bodies of people, at least where it is relevant to [what is] often business activity, you will have to conform to the norms of society.”

Kirby made the comments in response to questions at Telstra’s Sydney headquarters where he delivered a speech praising the telecommunications giant as “a leader in the challenge of responding to diversity in employment in Australia”.

Kirby also praised Telstra for sponsoring diving champion Matthew Mitcham after the Beijing Olympics when no other Australian corporation had been willing to.

In a telecommunications-related anecdote, Kirby also recalled using a code when calling his then new boyfriend Johan van Vloten in 1969 in the hope of avoiding detection by the authorities.

“I … would ring twice, then pause, then ring again,” he said. “That’s what you had to do in those days — you had to hide yourself, your identity.”

He also shared that van Vloten had told him the night before that they should get married when it is legal in Australia.

Kirby told the room that after 41 years the affirmation of their relationship was in its longevity.

“[But] that it should be available for those who want it … is undoubted. That it will come is undoubted.”

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5 responses to “Religious loopholes ‘will close’”

  1. We gota keep our consciences clear, unless they are so cluttered they will never be clear.

  2. Dave mentioned discrimination in aged care. That is still an untouched backwater of homophobia. Partly to do with what religious organisations that run aged care services can get away with and partly due to older people not standing up for themselves (and scared of retribution). Also ageing is not something gays – especially gay men – do very well.

    However, things are changing on that front. Concerned people should watch for injustice against gays in aged services just as we do with child protection and adoption at the moment.

  3. Some religious groups do seek to discriminate against us. The worry is if you are living in a rural area, sometimes there is only one GP Clinic, or one Pharmacy. Should a religious group run those businesses then it puts the health and welfare of people at risk in those country towns.

    There are cases in Victoria that I know of where the Pharmacy did not even have contraceptive pills, and stock certain medications, due to the religious beliefs of the owner. I have heard of people having travel many hours to see a doctor due the religious beliefs of the GP in a country town.

    I have heard of older people being discriminated against trying to get a Nursing Home placement as most Nursing homes are run by religious organizations and are federally funded.

    I think if a religious organization seeks all the profit and benefits from running a business, then they should be forced to comply with business standards that other businesses have to. They already get huge tax breaks, and do not normally pay rates.

    This of course is in addition to the abuse Anglicare gives children, telling them they will withdraw all services should they be required by law to even refer a Same-Sex couple onto another agency. The fundamental right of a child is stability. Anglicare has emotionally abused children in the recent adoption letter they sent to politicians. They also prefer children rot in their institutions rather then go to a loving home. DOCS has a legal responsibility now to remove all children under Anglicare and place them in a safe environment where they are not used as political pawns for the Evil of Anglicare.

    Discrimination should stay in the temple as Kirby said. I think it is time Australia got beyond the hate and intolerance some Christian groups are trying to impose over the rest of the community.