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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


This would be completely unacceptable to us, and to many Tasmanians of faith, so we urge both major parties to reject the idea.

For those federal members concerned about religious schools maintaining their faith and freedom,Tasmania offers a far better solution.

Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Act allows religious organisations to discriminate on the grounds of religion at the same time as they are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, relationship status or indeed any other attribute including race and disability.

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"Religion" in this context refers to the religious affiliation of the person being employed or provided with a service, not the religion of the religious body.

This means, for example, that a Jewish school can turn away a teacher if they are Christian, but not just because they are gay, transgender, Aboriginal or in a wheelchair.

In case there is any confusion, our state law-makers have repeatedly made it clear that discrimination against LGBTI people cannot occur under the cover of religious belief.

Effectively, the state is saying that, while religious freedom matters, homophobia and transphobia cause too much damage to be justified in law as religious values.

Our law sends the clear message that discrimination on the grounds of religion must actually be about religion and nothing else.

We understand not all people of faith will agree there is such a clear-cut boundary between discrimination on the grounds of religion and discrimination on other grounds.

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To them we say, the Tasmanian Act at least provides a way for disputes about that boundary to be arbitrated and resolved.

It gives people on both sides a chance to have their say whereas most other discrimination statutes rob LGBTI people in faith organisations of the chance to make their case.

We urge law-makers in Canberra, and in the mainland state capitals, to follow the Tasmanian example.

We urge them to open their eyes to the fact that faith-based schools operate quite well in Tasmania without the right to treat LGBTI unfairly, and so will their counterparts on the mainland.

As David Marr said in a recent interview, "in plucky little Tasmania" God's work can be done without discrimination against LGBTI people.

It's time for the rest of the nation to show some pluck and follow us down the path to greater inclusion.

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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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