After the Australian Attorney General published the second exposure draft of the proposed religious discrimination bill in December 2019 Sex and Gender Education (SAGE(Australia) set about formulating a public response which has been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office and sent to all Federal Senators.
It can be said without reservation the second draft of this bill was worse than the first. It gives even greater ability for extreme religious groups and people to discriminate against people from sex and/or gender diverse groups of people.
It permits religious people to exclude sex and/or gender diverse groups from health care facilities, age care, education, housing and service provision. They can be harassed, in the street or anywhere they go in public by extremist religious people and the aggressor could not be prosecuted and would be exempt for complaints made against them.
Yes, the bill really is that dangerous and can set back civil rights for sex and/or gender diverse people back 50 years. It is clear that it is driven by religious extremists in the coalition who are attempting to secure religious block votes at the next election.
Prim Minister Morrison himself has said he promised these rights to religious groups as compensation for losing the marriage equality plebiscite.
But since when does the loser get bigger prize than the winner?
This kind of right-wing fascist backlash is not exclusive to Australia. In America the Trump Government is reeling back rights for SGD groups to appease extreme religious voters. In the UK Brexit will take away citizens’ rights to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights as intersex and trans rights are repealed. Leaders in each country have made intersex, trans and homophobic remarks over the years.
The government is clearly formulating the second exposure by only paying attention to the submissions made by extreme religious groups during the consultation of the first exposure draft. It has completely ignored the human rights concerns voiced by many submissions about the people this kind of legalised discrimination will negatively effect.
Neither the Religious Freedom Review nor the Collation Government commissioned an impact study about the people who this kind of discrimination will affect. Since sex and/or gender diverse groups are amongst Australia’s most disadvantaged populations, with high unemployment, chronic levels of depression and high suicide rates, the government remains impervious to and irresponsible about those realities.
It is probably one the most unpopular bills introduced for decades. Many religious bodies and scholars have publicly stated they do not support the bill in its present form with the clauses that allows religious people to discriminate against other citizens, including sex and/or gender diverse people, and be exempt from discrimination law.
Whilst SAGE supports the right for religious people to be protected from discrimination themselves then allowing religious people to discriminate against others because they believe they are the devils spawn, is a step too far. The religious person will never have to prove the other person is from a sex and/or gender diverse group but simply believe they are. It is the “I think you’re a Martian so I will discriminate against you’, defense and an abdication of Australia’s Human rights responsibilities.
Read SAGE’s full response paper.