Today LGBTI groups, parents of trans and gender diverse children, teachers, leaders and allies will be in Canberra to call on parliament to amend outdated anti-discrimination laws to ensure all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people are treated with fairness and equality.
Following leaks of the 20 recommendations from the Religious Freedom Review, many Australians were outraged to learn that under current anti-discrimination laws, schools and other services run by religious bodies are legally able to discriminate against LGBTI children, clients and workers.
The Government has committed to repealing discrimination law exemptions that allow religious schools to turn away and expel students because of their sexuality, however there has been no commitment to protect workers in schools and parents remain anxious that their children might be discriminated against because they are transgender or because their parents are divorced, unmarried or in a same-sex relationship.
Karyn Walker, Co-Founder, Parents of Gender Diverse Children, said:
"We know that faith-based schools endeavour to support the individual needs of all their students, and hope that they extend this love, acceptance and compassion to trans and gender diverse students in their care. All students should be respected and included, and transgender students ask for nothing more."
"Parents and transgender students need to feel safe that they can continue their education where it began without threat of exclusion or discrimination."
"Transgender children are born into all kinds of families. Families that have different values, races, cultures, faiths and socio economic status. It is our job as parents to support, love and nurture our children, and to do that without fear of exclusion from schools that align with our faith and values."
Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre and co-chair of the Equality Campaign, said:
"Australians voted for fairness and equality this time last year, not discrimination against LGBT people. Kids in schools should be focused on classes and their homework, not living in fear of mistreatment because of who they are."
"All children should be accepted for who they are at school. Every person should be able to do their job without having to hide who they are. Every school should be inclusive of all types of families. We should all be able to access publicly available services free from discrimination."
"The very genesis of this inquiry was the deeply flawed idea that equality for LGBTIQ people somehow poses a threat to religious freedom. We reject this utterly, and remain concerned that conservative religious forces within the Coalition will be extracting their 'price' for marriage equality. There should be no price paid for equality."
Felicity Marlowe from Rainbow Families Victoria, said:
"We applaud the efforts of our parliamentarians to move to introduce legislation to address the discrimination faced by LGBTQ young people in our religious schools. We ask you keep in mind that our children, and in fact no child, should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or what kind of family they come from."
"Being gay or lesbian or transgender does not mean we give up our faith and religion. For many of us this is not about either/or. I know rainbow families who really want their children to receive an education in a religious setting but worry that these laws make that hard or even impossible."
"My message to politicians today is let’s not lose the momentum from the past weeks – act now to make schools welcoming of all LGBTQ children, young people, staff and our rainbow families," said Ms Marlowe.
Lyn Caton, ACT/NSW Organiser from the Australian Independent Education Union, said:
"All staff and students in schools deserve safe workplaces and learning environments. Sadly, teachers in faith-based schools can be terminated or demoted simply because they are gay, divorced or in a de facto relationship. This can and does happen."
"Faith-based schools and private educational facilities have the capacity and resilience to operate in the absence of these religious exemptions and bring their employment practices into line with community standards," said Ms Caton.
The Equality Campaign, Rainbow Families Victoria and Alex Greenwich MP have been collecting stories from LGBTIQ people who had experienced discrimination or exclusion at religious schools. Over 48 hours, more than 800 people wrote to the Equality Campaign sharing their support for removing discrimination against LGBTIQ people in schools and sharing their stories of discrimination.
"No one should be mistreated because of who they are or who they love. Kids in schools should be focusing on classes, homework and building friendships, not living in fear," said Ms Brown.
Available for comment:
James Laussen, Principal, Overnewton Anglican Community College
Karyn Walker, Co-Founder, Parents of Gender Diverse Children
Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre and co-chair of the Equality Campaign
Lyn Caton, ACT/NSW Organiser, Australian Independent Education Union
Felicity Marlowe, Rainbow Families Victoria
For interviews and media enquiries please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519