Resolutions / Wellbeing

Here’s what we can expect from the controversial religious discrimination bill

After years of back and forth, the Coalition has released its final draft of the contentious religious discrimination bill. If all goes to plan Scott Morrison will personally present the bill to Parliament tomorrow, November 25, where it will be debated over in the House of Representatives next week. But despite the latest draft being a watered down version of the initial — and quite frankly disturbing — proposals, we wouldn't blame you for being wary of the contents of this bill and what it means for LGBTIQA+ communities.

Below, we're outlining what exactly this bill proposes and what can expect if it passes in the Senate.


What are the key points of the religious discrimination bill?

Keeping with one of his main election promises in the wake of the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017, Scott Morrison has sought greater protections against discrimination on the basis of religion. What this means is that the bill specifically prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination against a person due to their affiliation with religion, or lack thereof.

But LGBTIQA+ advocates and allies, including Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, have pointed out quite rightfully that these protections should not come at the cost of those put in place to protect other minorities. Especially since previous iterations of the bill contained provisions like the so-called 'Israel Folau clause' that would prevent large employers from firing employees as a result of expression their religious views, unless they could prove that they've suffered commercial damage.

This clause was petitioned for heavily by the Australian Christian Lobby after Israel Folau was sacked from Rugby Australia after his incendiary and harmful Instagram post in 2019. Another concerning section proposed would allow health care professionals to 'conscientiously object' to giving or performing certain procedures on the basis of religious beliefs. Of course, this would pose serious threats to persons seeking an abortion or anyone looking to undergo gender affirmation surgery. Thankfully both these provisions have been scrapped in the final draft of the religious discrimination bill.

Meanwhile other commentators have argued that the current state anti-discrimination laws already provide sufficient protections against religious-based discrimination, thus concluding that the reform would be unnecessary.

Another element of the bill would enshrine the right of religious bodies to act in accordance with their faith in certain situations without it being considered discriminatory. What we've gathered from this is that, rather alarmingly those, 'certain situations' mean a religious primary school or high school could turn away students and staff who don't practice its chosen faith. The same goes for hospitals and other health care services. However, any institution planning to do so are required to have a policy that clearly outlines how they plan to enforce these views — one that can be easily accessed by the public.

Naturally, there are concerns that this aspect would allow queer and trans teachers to be sacked, and we're yet to receive confirmation otherwise.

The only piece of consolation around the bill came from Christian Porter, of all people, earlier in August when he prefaced the bill with the caveat that "no statement of belief in this context is reasonable if it's malicious or if it harasses, vilifies, incites hatred or violence or advocates for the commission of a serious criminal offence".

At the moment, it's unclear what stance the Federal Opposition will take on the bill as Anthony Albanese is apparently yet to see it. Although, Penny Wong has been vocal about her stance on the bill, which pretty much mirrors the "religious freedoms are important but shouldn't come at the cost of protections against the LGBTQIA+ community" argument.

When we know more about the status of the bill, we'll be sure to let you know.

For steaming hot content every time, check out our favourite LGBTIQA+ creators. Otherwise, find our guide to ensuring that your allyship is not performative, and thus useless.

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