Skip navigation

Government urged to remove LGBTI discrimination in schools

profile image
Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
9 September 2015

Transgender students would be able to attend same-sex religious schools and wear the uniform of their choice, and gay and lesbian teachers would be allowed to work at religious schools, under changes mooted to Victorian discrimination laws.

The changes - being proposed by the Greens in a private members' bill to go before the Victorian Parliament soon - would remove the rights of religious schools to discriminate against staff and students based on their sexuality.

The changes would put the parliament on a collision course with church groups, which have opposed even limited changes to current discrimination laws.

The Greens' equality spokesman, Sam Hibbins, is preparing a draft bill that would remove blanket exemptions for religious groups from discrimination laws in relation to schools, under the Equal Opportunity Act.

"Being able to deny a transgender student the right to attend school as their preferred gender or sacking a teacher because they are gay or lesbian is blatant discrimination and must not be sanctioned by Victorian law," Mr Hibbins said.

Under the Greens model, living and identifying as a boy or girl would be enough to qualify a child for attendance at a single sex school.

Mr Hibbins challenged Labor to support the move, pointing out that Premier Daniel Andrews and Equality Minister Martin Foley had repeatedly vowed that "equality is not negotiable".

But Mr Foley indicated Labor would instead push ahead with its own changes to equal opportunity laws.

It plans to return the "inherent requirement test" to the Equal Opportunity Act that it introduced in 2010, and that the Coalition dismantled in 2011. Under that test, religious organisations were required to justify their "need" to discriminate.

Labor says the model balances the rights of religious organisations to conduct their own affairs, while creating a higher threshold for organisations wanting to discriminate based on faith or identity.

"We're committed to rolling back the Libs' roll back of the inherent requirement test, and we're well-progressed on that," Mr Foley told Fairfax.

But these changes too have raised the ire of religious groups.

When Labor announced last year it would put the inherent requirement test back into law, Christian Schools Australia chief executive Stephen O'Doherty dubbed the changes an "ideological attack on religion", and said the organisation would lobby upper house MPs to block the legislation.

Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn said it could force Christian schools to hire people fundamentally opposed to the schools' objectives.

But Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Sean Mulcahy said Labor's changes did not go far enough.

"We've always opposed the religious exemptions in the Act and particularly where they affect young or vulnerable people," he said.

"Studies show that younger LGBTI people have much higher rates of suicide and have much higher rates of mental health issues."

Currently, religious schools have wide-ranging exemptions from discrimination laws, including a clause that allows them to discriminate "to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion".

Read the full article here.

profile image
Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
9 September 2015
SHARE:

WHAT I'M FIGHTING FOR


LATEST NEWS

MEDIA RELEASE

Greens call on Upper House to block Labor’s tax on electric vehicles

The Greens have urged non-government MPs to oppose the Victorian Labor Government’s proposed tax on people who drive electric vehicles when the bill moves through Parliament in the coming months.   At a time when countries around the world are making EVs more affordable to drive down greenhouse gas emissions,...

PARLIAMENT

Members Statement: Urban Environment

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): I rise to urge the state government to improve and consider our urban environment. I cite two examples where I recently met with residents where this needs to happen. Firstly, the Queens Way retaining walls, which were once porous green walls, have now been completely concreted over, with...

MEDIA RELEASE

Vicroads privatisation will put interested of private profit over public good

The Greens have slammed the Victorian Labor Government's decision to partly privatise VicRoads and have said it will put the interests of private profit over the public good. Victorian Greens spokesperson for transport, Sam Hibbins, said it was clear this government was addicted to privatisation and that it needed to...

PARLIAMENT

Question without Notice: Gas Imports

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): My question is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. Minister, whilst last sitting week this house supported the ban on gas fracking in Victoria’s constitution, there are still currently plans for two gas import terminals in Victoria—in Western Port and Geelong. Can the minister...