Exemptions which allow religious schools to turn away transgender students or sack gay teachers should be removed in the wake of an urgent inquiry conducted by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee.
Tonight, the Senate Committee tabled its report rejecting key recommendations of the Religious Freedom Review report and clearly recommending that the Morrison Government amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to prohibit discrimination against LGBT students.
Anna Brown, Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said it's time the Australian Parliament removed these outdated laws.
"Parents and children need certainty for the new year. They deserve to go into 2019 knowing that no student will face discrimination at school because of who they are," said Ms Brown.
"There are only 2 sitting weeks left for the Australian Parliament. The Prime Minister made a clear promise to remove discrimination against LGBT students in schools as soon as possible. Now is the time for Mr Morrison to honour his promise," said Ms Brown.
The Committee recommends that further consideration be given to removing exemptions which allow religious schools to discriminate against teachers and staff and points to the Tasmanian ant-discrimination laws as an example. These laws allow religious schools and other organisations to discriminate, but only on the basis of religious belief (not sexuality, gender or other ground).
Ms Brown said that the parliament has a pathway to allow schools to protect LGBT teachers from discrimination while allowing religious schools to maintain their religious ethos.
"Teachers should be able to do their job without having to hide who they are. More than 1 in 3 schools in Australia is a religious school. Allowing discrimination against teachers to continue sends a message to their students that flies in the face of the values of fairness and acceptance that Australians expect in modern society" said Ms Brown.
The Senate report recommends two amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to make clear that religious schools cannot expel students because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
"Broad exemptions from our discrimination laws allow religious schools to expel children. No kid should be feeling scared to walk through the school gates just because of who they are," said Ms Brown.
"We have a clear way forward. Two simple changes can remove these exemptions once and for all so that students can feel welcome at all schools across Australia," said Ms Brown.
Read: The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee can be read here.
Read: The Equality Campaign’s submission here.
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications: 0419 100 519