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Religious discrimination bill contorts equality principle

Edward Santow writes in the Sydney Morning Herald (8.2.22) about the Morrison government’s religious discrimination bill being debated in federal parliament, arguing that it doesn’t stand up to equality and human rights principles.

‘Some human rights reform is exceptionally hard. Passing a law that prohibits religious discrimination isn’t. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

‘In my previous role as Human Rights Commissioner, I documented the harm that discrimination can cause people of faith. I heard about a Jewish boy who was subjected to antisemitic slurs and a serious physical assault at a Melbourne school, resulting in the child being hospitalised. I heard about a Muslim family – parents and children – who were verbally abused on a train, with the assailants yelling they would ‘love to kill them all’.

‘I was equally shocked by the experiences of some LGBTIQ+ children and their families. I heard too many stories of kids tormented because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The default setting for most kids is bright, happy and open to the world. Discrimination almost always flips that switch. Parents would tell me – sometimes through tears of desperation – that they didn’t know whether they could keep their children alive.

‘Anyone who wants to protect one of these groups from discrimination should support protection for both groups.’

Liberal revolt removes all discrimination against gay and transgender children

Michelle Grattan writes in The Conversation (10.2.22) about the Morrison government’s proposed religious discrimination laws, which underwent late night amendments in parliament after an embarrassing ‘revolt’ of Liberal MPs.

‘In a humiliating rebuff to Scott Morrison, a revolt by Liberal backbenchers has struck down the provisions of the sex discrimination act that allow discrimination against gay and transgender children.

‘In the early hours of Thursday, five Liberals crossed the floor – Katie Allen, Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Bridget Archer and Fiona Martin – in defiance of the Prime Minister. The vote was 65-59. The amended bill then passed the House of Representatives and now has to go to the Senate.

‘The rebels had been concerned the government’s much narrower proposed change excluded transgender children at religious schools.

‘The amendment was moved by crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie and was identical in wording to one of Labor’s proposed amendments. Sharkie told The Conversation she thought it might have a greater chance of success coming from the crossbench.’

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