Let LGBTI Kids Be Free & Equal

Pic: West Midlands Police

Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 inquiry is now under way.

  • This is our opportunity to call for all schools to be made free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Submissions close on Monday 21 January 2019 (ie two weeks away) and
  • Once you’ve written yours, it can be uploaded here or emailed to sen@aph.gov.au
For more detailed information check out Alastair Lawrie’s post here.
Please find below my submission to the enquiry into the above bill.

Protect Students

The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 must be passed urgently, so that all students can learn in a safe and inclusive environment.

Protect Teachers and other staff

But first it should be amended to remove the exceptions in the Sex Discrimination Act which allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBT teachers and other staff.

Teachers should be employed solely on their ability and qualifications. Their gender identity, expression or sexual orientation, or intersex status, is no-one’s business but their own, and irrelevant to their work.

As long as religious schools are funded even in part by the taxpayer, and purport to serve the whole community and not just their own adherents, then they must operate under exactly the same laws. They should not be given special privileges simply because they are owned and operated by religious bodies.

A school is not safe for LGBTI children unless it is also safe for LGBTI staff and administrators to be out and open.

Amend the Fair Work Act

To the same end, the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 should also be amended to remove the provisions that sanctify the adverse treatment and or unfair dismissal of teachers because of their sexual orientation, transgender or intersex status.

Reject Government Amendments

Because the governments proposed amendments to the bill would entrench existing and new forms of discrimination, these must all be rejected. These amendments are simply verbal trickery designed to allow religious schools to continue to discriminate against LGBT students.

They would reinstate one of the two current exceptions that allow religious schools to expel or otherwise mistreat students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

They would create an entirely new privilege allowing religious schools to discriminate against LGBT students as long as it formed part of ‘any kind of instruction of a student by a person employed or otherwise engaged by an educational institution.’

They would change the test for whether indirect discrimination is lawful by adding consideration of whether a ‘condition, requirement or practice… imposed, or proposed to be imposed [by a religious school is] in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed.’ A faith so fragile that it needs legal protection against hurt feelings is no worthwhile faith at all: this provision is frankly ludicrous and should be dismissed.

These proposed amendments fundamentally undermine the purpose of the legislation, by allowing religious schools to continue to discriminate against LGBT students. They simply change the language justifying the unjustifiable discrimination, and should be rejected.

Doug Pollard

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)