The date for the Sydney protest against the Morrison government’s controversial Religious Discrimination Bill has been announced as February 8, 2020.
Hosted LGBTQI activist groups including the Community Action for Rainbow Rights, LGBTI Rights Australia and the National Union of Students Queer/LGBTI, the protest will begin at 1 pm on Saturday and is expected to attract over 5,000 participants.
A Facebook page for the event has been set up. It describes Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney General, Christian Porter’s much dreaded Religious Discrimination Bill as a “broad attack” on social, political and religious minorities.
“The Morrison Government is launching a broad attack on anyone who has won protection from discrimination in recent decades: women, LGBTIQ folk, people with disability, racial, ethnic and religious minorities; all will be targeted by the so-called “Religious Freedom” Bills,” the page reads.
“If passed, the law would give bigots across Australia the right to discriminate, deny the freedoms of others and impose their views in key areas of public life: healthcare, employment, education and other services.”
Event organisers were also quick to point out inconsistencies in the Coalition government’s ‘top-priorities’.
“The Liberal government has been obsessed with passing these laws ever since they were outvoted on marriage equality. Morrison has now announced ramped-up amendments to the bigot’s bill, while the country burns and Sydney chokes on smoke.
“The Federal government wants to take the amended legislation to parliament early in 2020. It’s up to us to send a clear message to Morrison, and anyone else thinking about supporting this legislation, that the overwhelming majority of people oppose granting religious organisations, business owners, or whoever else, the right to discriminate!”
The bill, which is designed to eliminate discrimination based on religion, will include provisions allowing religious hospitals, aged care facilities and retirement homes to preference members of their faith as to preserve their “religious ethos”.
Religious institutions will also be protected from claims of discrimination when they take “actions that they might need to take to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherence of their faith”.
Earlier in December, the Morrison government released the second draft of the bill after a revolt was sparked by religious organisations against the first draft of the religious discrimination bill, causing the Coalition government to miss its year-end deadline for introducing the bill.
After the release of the second draft, Porter said the changes would not “change the operation, the objectives or the overarching structure of the bill” but would “improve a range of very important clauses”.
The new bill was welcomed by religious groups while being condemned by the Greens and LGBTI groups. Labor simply reiterated its position that the government should not “compromise existing anti-discrimination protections”.
The newly appointed Convenor of the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Jack Whitney said in a statement last week that the second draft of the religious discrimination bill is not only a “slap in the face,” to marginalised communities, but is also an insult to Australia’s once-strong anti-discrimination laws.
“This Coalition Government cannot be trusted to introduce fair, measured and equal laws that protect LGBTQI people, women, people with disability, and faith-based communities,” he said.
“It is almost impossible to contemplate such a bill being applied with our current modern anti-discrimination laws… not to mention completely denigrates the consultation process and signifies that the Coalition Government does not take seriously our concerns.”
Whitney also noted that Scott Morrison and Christian Porter “lack the leadership and clarity to bring together the parliament, the LGBTQI community, and the faith-based communities on this issue.”