RUSU Statement Regarding the Religious Discrimination Bill
Content Warning: Homophobia, Transphobia, Queerphobia, Mentions of Suicide.
The Religious Discrimination Bill is set to be debated in the Federal Parliament today. The RUSU Queer Department openly opposes this Bill.
Australia is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, and it is extremely important that the expression of religious beliefs (and non-religion), should be legally protected and free from discrimination in this country. While the ideas behind the proposed bill appear to support religious freedoms, the details within the bill are fundamentally flawed.
The Religious Discrimination Bill will allow religious groups to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people and women, as well as others in society who hold different religious beliefs. If passed, it will entrench in law the idea that LGBTIQA+ people are not equal to, and do not deserve the same rights as, everyone else in society. In effect, this bill will allow for state-sanctioned and legally protected discrimination. The ramifications of the bill, particularly within the healthcare and education sectors, are enormous.
Queer people are more likely to be impacted by anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts than other sectors of the population. Trans-identifying Australians are especially vulnerable, and need access to gender-affirming healthcare without bias or moral judgement. If enshrined in law, this bill will prioritise the personal religious views of health professionals over the needs of some of their most vulnerable patients: sexual and gender-diverse people, who already face significant barriers in accessing appropriate and timely care. You can support LGBTIQA+ people to access essential healthcare by letting your MP know you oppose the bill.
Religious educational institutions would also be free to discriminate against students and teachers on the basis of their sexuality, gender or religion. The most recent amendments made to this bill will protect gay students from being expelled from religious schools, but not trans students. That is where the government has decided to draw the line on supporting and protecting the LGBTQI+ community. LGBTIQA+ young people are some of the most vulnerable in Australia. You can protect them from this damaging bill by telling your MP to vote against it.
The Religious Discrimination Bill will remove existing anti-discrimination protections – at both the state and federal level – including on the grounds of race, religion, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. This means that employees may no longer be protected under existing anti-discrimination laws, and could be subject to offensive, uninformed or damaging statements and behaviours in the workplace, based on others’ religious beliefs. And when expressed as religious beliefs, offensive and discriminatory views would be protected under Australian law. You can prevent legalised discrimination by contacting your MP and letting them know the impacts this bill will have on marginalised people.
Previous research has shown that public debate around the rights of minority groups detrimentally impacts their mental health. For example, during the highly publicised lead up to the marriage equality vote in late 2017, increased exposure to the views of the ‘No campaign’ was associated with poorer mental health among LGBTIQ+ Australians. The drawn-out debate around the religious discrimination bill is no different. High-profile debates about whether religious schools should be able to expel LGBTIQ+ students, or whether individuals should be allowed to express damaging and discriminatory views, is undoubtedly already harmful to many marginalised Australians.
Please contact your local MP to make sure they do not support this bill. You can do this by simply clicking on the link below and filling in your details on the webform provided: https://equalityaustralia.org.au/fight-the-religious-discrimination-bill-sourcedirect-link/
Patrick Pieciun (Queer Officer)
Reggie Chang (Queer Officer)