Tasmania leads the way in Victoria against religious discrimination against LGBTIQ +
I don’t mean to say that schools and denominational services are perfect; there is still discrimination. But at least there is a legal framework for resolving discrimination complaints, and a broad awareness of this framework exists.
Significantly, there has been no attempt by Tasmanian religious leaders or right-wing MPs to remove existing protections. There has been no public outcry about the violation of “religious freedom” or the “persecution” of people of faith.
There are compromises in the Victorian bill that are not found in the Tasmanian law.
For example, the Andrews government proposes that LGBTIQ + people be protected in faith-based health, family and community services only if these services are funded by the government.
This would allow faith-based organizations to quarantine services like, for example, placement and adoption.
If faith-based organizations could find sufficient private and religious funding for such services, they could shut the door on LGBTIQ + employees and clients.
Equally serious, the exclusion from services that are not government funded sends the message that discrimination against LGBTIQ + people is still sometimes acceptable in Victoria.
None of this is the case in Tasmania, as LGBTIQ + people are protected in all faith-based services, including those funded by the church. Our law is based on the principle that services open to the public must be equally accessible regardless of the source of the money.
The Victorian proposal also allows discrimination against students in denominational schools, which is not allowed in Tasmania.
Denominational schools in Tasmania can only discriminate on the basis of creed or religious affiliation when first enrolling.
This has been put in place to ensure that religious belief is not used as an alternative way to discriminate against LGBTIQ + students, especially during high school when they are more likely to drop out.
In the Victorian proposition, discrimination based on religious belief is permitted at any point in a student’s academic career.
This opens up too many opportunities for LGBTIQ + students to be harassed, intimidated and discriminated against if a school considers their sexuality or gender identity to be against school ethics.
Such shortcomings are part of a disturbing trend under the current Victorian government.
He’s taking action on expensive, LGBTIQ + headline law reform, but substance doesn’t always match the rotation.
For example, in 2019 Victoria looked very progressive when the Andrews government allowed transgender people to state their real sex on their birth certificates without requiring surgery.
But the government has undermined the principle of transgender self-determination by insisting that a trans person seeking an amended birth certificate first obtain a statement from another person to confirm that they are who they claim to be.
The Andrews government has also been reluctant to allow people to completely remove their gender from their birth certificates, although this is recommended by a number of health organizations for its positive impact on the mental health of trans and gender diverse people. .
Tasmania’s gender recognition laws, passed before Victoria’s, do not require third-party declarations and allow gender to be removed from birth certificates.
Defenders of Tasmania have been disappointed that Victoria did not follow our lead, especially given all of our efforts to pass landmark legislation in the face of a hostile state government.
Victoria is also set to expand her defamation laws to protect LGBTIQ + people, but no consideration has been given to protections against humiliating, intimidating, insulting and ridiculous behavior.
This conduct is prohibited under the Racial Discrimination Act and on various grounds in Tasmania, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Once again, it is disappointing that Victoria has stopped dead.
The Tasmanian experience shows that the Victorian government’s proposal to prevent LGBTIQ + discrimination by faith-based organizations is not as radical and untested as some Victorian religious leaders claim.
It shows that the heavens will not crumble, that this is not part of a crusade against religion, and that faith can benefit from laws that promote dignity and equality.
But the Tasmanian experience also shows that the Andrews government does not need to skimp on equality with unnecessary caveats and compromises.
Such compromises will not win him friends among his enemies, but they will leave vulnerable LGBTIQ + people exposed to continued discrimination and prejudice.