A new bill being introduced by the Greens would see private religious schools in Western Australia lose their legal right to discriminate against LGBTI students and staff.
Alison Xamon, WA Greens spokesperson for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, will introduce legislation to amend the state’s existing Equal Opportunities Act to prevent schools from being able to discriminate based on gender or sexuality, Out in Perth has reported.
“The notion that schools can legally discriminate is clearly out of step with community expectations, and WA law is amongst the most backward in Australia,” Xamon said.
“We must now take immediate steps to repeal the last remaining law in WA that is discriminatory on the grounds of sexuality.”
The loophole in Western Australian law allowing discrimination by religious schools came under scrutiny last year when a Perth teacher was fired for coming out as gay.
Xamon said that for as long as the law allows such discrimination, the safety of LGBTI students and staff is subject the attitudes of principals.
“While most religious schools do not use this law and do not wish to, the danger to [LGBTI] students and staff is that a school’s policy can be unclear and can change when the principal does,” she said.
“Equal opportunity laws should be designed to protect all members of the community, but this currently is not the case in Western Australia.
“The Greens have always stood for equal rights for [LGBTI] people, so if the government won’t introduce legislation to prevent this discrimination legally occurring, then we will.”
Some lobbyists are still fighting for schools to be allowed to discriminate on religious grounds against LGBTI people.
During the federal government’s recent review into ‘religious freedom’, Christian Schools Australia and Adventist Schools Australia made a submission arguing to retain the right to hire and fire staff over religious beliefs and behaviour, including sexuality.
LGBTI advocacy groups have called for laws that remain in place allowing such discrimination to be abolished.