Victorian LGBT advocates have urged MPs to pass a bill in parliament that will further protect sexual and gender diverse people from discrimination when seeking employment.

The state government introduced and began debating the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Bill 2016 this week, which makes amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

Under the changes, a religious organisation or school seeking to discriminate against an employee on the basis of their sexual or gender identity would have to show that religious beliefs are an inherent part of the job.

May* was employed by a Christian welfare agency for two years, and had volunteered for another two. She also attended the church in connection with the welfare group.

“I was asked to resign due to my relationship with my partner,” she said.

“I was directly told they were concerned with my involvement with primary and secondary school aged children.

“I resigned and fell apart after having served that community for four years.

“I can’t express the devastating impact being asked to resign due to my sexuality had on my life – I lost everything and had to rebuild myself from a very broken place.”

Co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL), Rachael Hambleton, believes all Victorians should be able to enjoy a working environment free from discrimination.

“LGBT workers should not have to confront the risk of being fired or demoted if they come out at work,” she said.

“Religious organisations still have the freedom to employ staff that adhere to their religious beliefs where it is an inherent requirement of the role, but should not be able to freely discriminate against employees on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.”

Co-convenor of the VGLRL Sean Mulcahy urged parliamentarians to consider the impacts of discrimination on vulnerable LGBT workers.

“When it comes to employment, it is the capacity of a worker to do the job effectively that should matter, not their sexuality or gender identity,” he said.

“It’s time for all of Parliament to take action to protect the rights of LGBT people at work.

“Further reforms are still needed to protect LGBT people accessing services.”

The new bill is being debated in Victoria’s lower house this week.

*May’s name was changed to protect her privacy.


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