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Religious have no right to judgment on sexual orientation or gender identity

By Robin Banks, Anja Hilkemeijer and Rodney Croome - posted Thursday, 6 December 2018


These protections have a positive impact, not only on LGBTI people, but on policies, practices and productivity across the faith-based service sector.

The law improves faith-based agencies by encouraging them to employ staff on the basis of skill and provide services on the basis of need, instead of focusing on attributes that are irrelevant like sexuality and gender identity.

This is why many faith-based agencies have happily entrenched Tasmania's high legal standards in their day-to-day practice.

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For example, in May this year Baptcare in Tasmania won an LGBTI community award for its comprehensive policies and training aimed at ensuring LGBTI staff and clients are included and safe.

We believe a key reason that Tasmania's ban on LGBTI discrimination in religious organisations is uncontroversial is that organisations like Baptcare have recognised the law is good for them.

Given all this, we naturally ask ourselves why there is so much fuss in Canberra about this issue when there is no fuss at all in Hobart.

Surely, if Tasmania's schools and hospitals benefit from higher discrimination standards so will their counterparts interstate?

We are also left wondering why so few commentators seem to be aware of, or interested in citing, theTasmanian precedent.

It's as if Tasmanian only makes the news when we fall short on human rights, not when we lead.

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But our biggest concern is that federal legislation designed to give equal protection to LGBTI people in faith-based organisations may actually water-down Tasmania's gold-standard legislation.

There have been worrying public statements from members of both major parties about entrenching a positive right for schools to discriminate against teachers on the grounds of religious "ethos".

Not only could this allow discrimination, for example through the enforcement of gendered dress-codes, it could also mean Tasmanian schools that currently can't discriminate suddenly find themselves able to.

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About the Authors

Robin Banks is the former Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, a human rights lawyers and a PhD candidate in discrimination law at the University of Tasmania.

Anja Hilkemeijer is a lecturer in law at the University of Tasmania Law School, specialising in human rights and religious freedom.

Rodney Croome is the National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his gay rights advocacy. He is co-author of Why vs Why: Gay Marriage.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Robin Banks
All articles by Anja Hilkemeijer
All articles by Rodney Croome

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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