Australia

Labor to move on protections for gay students in religious schools

Opposition leader in the Senate Penny Wong will introduce the legislation after talks with the coalition broke down. Source: AAP

Labor will introduce legislation to change the Sexual Discrimination Act, to protect LGBTI students from discrimination at faith-based schools.

Labor will go it alone on a push to ensure gay school students are protected from discrimination at religious schools.

The opposition's Senate leader Penny Wong will introduce legislation to parliament on Thursday after talks with the coalition government broke down earlier in the week.

Labor's bill will change the Sexual Discrimination Act to prevent schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

It is likely the legislation will act as a political wedge, forcing the government to introduce its own legislation to parliament in the next few days.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said on Tuesday the protections proposed by the coalition to uphold school rules were modest and necessary.

Attorney-General Christian Porter
Attorney-General Christian Porter says the protections are necessary
AAP

He said it was important to allow faith-based schools to maintain rules like compelling students to attend religious services.

"We think that's a very reasonable protection for religious schools and they consider that is very important to the way in which they conduct their affairs," he told ABC radio.

The Greens want to go further than Labor, and will try to amend the opposition's legislation to include discrimination against teachers and staff.

"Labor needs to join the Greens in protecting teachers now. Not next year, not after the next election. No ifs, no buts, no more delays. We need to pass these reforms now," Greens Senator Janet Rice said.

"We can't afford any further delay before removing discrimination. Schools should be discrimination-free zones for all people, regardless of whether they are are a student or a staff member."

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Tasmania parliament votes in favour of gender optional on birth certificate.
Tasmania parliament votes in favour of gender optional on birth certificate.

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