The Northern Territory government has proposed changes to its Anti-Discrimination Act to ban religious institutions from refusing to hire or sacking staff from being LGBTQI.
The proposed draft of the changes to the law to protect LGBTQI employees as well as other marginalised groups have been released for public consultation.
“Overall, the reforms aim to ensure the protections offered by the Act meet the contemporary needs of people living in the Territory and address areas where concerns have been raised with the operation of the current legislation,” the government stated, while calling for public submissions on the bill.
‘Bill Needs Improvement’
LGBTQI advocacy groups have welcomed the decision, but have reminded the government it needs to go further to protect the community.
“We welcome the Northern Territory Government’s commitment to reforming NT laws to protect LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination, no matter where we work, study or access services,” said Dr Ahmad Syahir Mohd Soffi, Rainbow Territory spokesperson, in a statement.
“This is a reform, years in the making, and gives the Northern Territory the chance to lead the nation in laws that protect all of us, equally,” they added.
According to Equality Australia Legal Director, Ghassan Kassisieh, “the Bill will need improvement if it is to deliver on its promise of equal protection for LGBTIQ+ people, including Sistergirls and Brotherboys, in the Northern Territory”.
Bill Removes Religious Exemptions
The draft bill has proposed to remove exemptions in the law that allows religious schools to discriminate against LGBTQI staff. However, the bill still gives religious institutions the right to refuse to hire staff on account of their “religious belief or activity”.
The draft proposes “additional protections from discrimination and vilification for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, carers, sex workers, and people who are experiencing homelessness, socioeconomic disadvantage or domestic and family violence”
Employers will also have a positive duty to end discrimination, victimisation and sexual harassment.
Equality Australia and Rainbow Territory said that they will suggest changes to the Bill to ensure religious exemptions do not allow for discrimination against LGBTQI people and “attributes of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics are properly defined, so that all LGBTIQ+ people are protected from discrimination.”