The Morrison Government has proposed a Bill which legal experts and LGBTI groups say would entrench unfair and outdated discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi and trans students, resulting in a stalemate with Labor and the Greens.
One of the amendments would allow religious schools to continue to engage in direct or indirect discrimination against students because of their sexuality, gender identity, or a range of other grounds.
Anna Brown, Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign and Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Prime Minister should honour his commitment to remove discrimination, not entrench new discrimination in the law.
"Students and all Australians have every right to be deeply frustrated and heartbroken that our Parliament has failed to deliver on what should be a straightforward reform. Prime Minister Morrison has broken his commitment to introduce and pass legislation to protect students in school as soon as practicable. That commitment was made in October, the changes are very simple and now in the final days of Parliament we are mired in a ridiculous debate instead of giving families certainty before the new school year," said Anna Brown.
"It’s outrageous that children can still be discriminated against by religious schools because of their sexuality or gender identity. The Morrison Bill would entrench unacceptable forms of discrimination against LGBT students. We commend the ALP and Greens for standing up for LGBT young people today and objecting to amendments that would entrench discrimination," added Anna Brown.
Karyn Walker, spokesperson for Parents of Gender Diverse Children, who support 500 families with transgender children across the country, welcomed the support from Labor and the Greens but remained concerned about the impact of discrimination.
"We remain extremely concerned for the welfare of all of our students currently attending faith based schools. We strongly believe that all children are equal and that Australian law should reflect that," said Karyn Walker.
Lee Carnie, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the amendment would allow a broad range of discrimination against students because of their sexuality or gender identity.
"The amendment is incredibly broad — it applies to any instruction inside or outside the classroom. It would allow a teacher to treat a student differently because of their sexuality, to exclude that student from classroom activities, or to discipline them for being transgender," said Lee Carnie.
"It has been less than a year since the Australian Parliament voted down hostile amendments to the marriage equality bill. We call on parliamentarians to vote out any forms of discrimination against LGBT kids in schools this year," added Lee Carnie.
For interviews call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519