Parents of trans and gender diverse children – alongside LGBTI groups, leaders, and teachers – have called on the government to amend anti-discrimination laws that currently allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTI students.
Earlier this month, 20 recommendations were leaked from the Philip Ruddock-led religious freedom review, including one that endorsed the right of religious schools to discriminate against students or teachers on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.
Co-founder of Parents of Gender Diverse Children, Karyn Walker, said all students should be respected, including trans students.
“We know that faith-based schools endeavour to support the individual needs of all their students, and hope that they extend this love, acceptance, and compassion to trans and gender diverse students in their care,” she said.
“Parents and transgender students need to feel safe that they can continue their education where it began without threat of exclusion or discrimination.
“Trans children are born into all kinds of families. Families that have different values, races, cultures, faiths, and socio-economic status. It is our job as parents to support, love, and nurture our children, and to do that without fear of exclusion from schools that align with our faith and values.”
More than 60 LGBTI and ally organisations recently sent out a joint statement which challenged Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet to amend outdated anti-discrimination laws to ensure all LGBTI people are treated with fairness and equality.
The Equality Campaign, Rainbow Families Victoria, and MP Alex Greenwich also collected stories from LGBTI people who had experienced discrimination or exclusion at religious schools.
Over 48 hours, more than 800 people wrote in and shared their support for removing discrimination against LGBTI people in schools while sharing their stories of discrimination.
Director of legal advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre and co-chair of the Equality Campaign, Anna Brown, said Australians voted for equality last year during the marriage equality postal survey, “not discrimination”.
“All children should be accepted for who they are at school,” she said.
“Every person should be able to do their job without having to hide who they are. Every school should be inclusive of all types of families. We should all be able to access publicly available services free from discrimination.
“No-one should be mistreated because of who they are or who they love. Kids in schools should be focusing on classes, homework, and building friendships, not living in fear.”
Director of Rainbow Families Victoria, Felicity Marlowe, urged parliamentarians to keep in mind that “no child should ever be discriminated against because of who they are”.
“Being gay or lesbian or transgender does not mean we give up our faith and religion,” she said.
“I know rainbow families who really want their children to receive an education in a religious setting but worry that these laws make that hard or even impossible.”