Australia

Time to end discrimination, parties told

LGBTI advocates in Australia are seeking a bipartisan approach to ending discrimination in law. (AAP)

LGBTI advocates have written to Labor and the coalition seeking a bipartisan approach to ending discrimination in law.

More than 100 organisations and individuals have written to Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese demanding they ban religious organisations from discriminating on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.

In December, Labor and the coalition failed to reach a deal in parliament on the wording of legislation.

Even though the government and opposition agree the largely redundant legal right for religious schools to discriminate should be removed, Labor objected to a clause allowing schools to teach in accordance with their religious beliefs, believing it broadens the grounds for discrimination.

But the government says the bill "looks after kids", while preserving religious freedom.

With the new parliament set to start on July 2, Mr Albanese has said he is prepared to work with the prime minister on a reworded bill.

The open letter released on Friday says students and workers are currently denied their right to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity at school and work, without risking expulsion, discrimination, or the sack.

"In particular, because of the current legal situation, many teachers working in religious schools remain closeted," the letter says.

"The current ban in many religious schools on being openly LGBTQIA prevents young people from growing up with role models who reflect a cross section of the community, and suggests there is something inherently problematic about LGBTQIA folk being in contact with young people."

It says religious exemptions are not about freedom of religion or speech.

"They're about retaining laws that make people second-class citizens."

The letter comes as debate rages over rugby star Israel Folau issuing a public plea to raise funds for legal proceedings against Rugby Australia.

Folau's $5 million RA contract was terminated in May after a Bible-citing post he made on social media was deemed homophobic. It followed a similar incident last year.

One of the letter signatories, national PFLAG spokesperson Shelley Argent, said people who profess to speak in the name of God should not be allowed to discriminate.

"When LGBTI people face discrimination and hatred, God weeps," she said.

"The Bible should never be used as a weapon of abuse against anyone, including LGBTI people."

A number of Labor MPs voiced concerns after the election that the party was deaf to the views of people of Christian and other faiths, producing a backlash in some seats.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch