Self-professed atheist Mark Latham is a curious choice to have as the central force behind the Christian Right in this state. However, the NSW One Nation leader is currently driving the agenda for those who are also referred to as the Religious Right in the Australian political setting.
The ongoing grassroots campaign against Latham’s Parental Rights Bill continued on Saturday with another Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) rally held at Sydney Town Hall to call for the proposed laws – which have dire implications for transgender kids – to be dropped.
The One Nation MLC’s legislation seeks to ban teachers, counsellors and any staff member from mentioning gender fluidity within the NSW schooling system via threat of losing their jobs. And this stipulation would apply to situations even when a trans child reached out for advice.
Cook was the only trans person to speak as an expert witness at the parliamentary committee hearings regarding the bill. And he warned that, if passed, these laws would result in vulnerable trans children being ostracised at the very time in their lives when they most need support.
A nasty little cabal
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) committee member David Bernie outlined that a 2013 Gillard government amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), which placed protections on sexual orientation and gender identity, could mean some of Latham’s laws are unconstitutional.
“We all know that this period is the most crucial for anybody coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity,” the Sydney barrister continued. “It’s an absolute act of cruelty. I have never seen a bill as bad as this. And I can’t believe that it’s even given consideration.”
The consideration of a NSW parliamentary education committee is part of the reason why the campaign against the bill has been so sustained.
The Berejiklian government has already endorsed Latham’s divisive religious freedoms bill, as well as resolved to consider its own uranium mining laws after the One Nation leader introduced legislation proposing to lift the ban on the extraction of the radioactive metal.
NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong was a dissenter on the committee that approved Latham’s religious freedoms bill. She told Saturday’s rally that in her opinion Latham and his ilk have “a sick obsession with trans kids that needs to be called out for what it is, and, that is, a little bit creepy”.
On her experience of sitting through the hearings with Latham and other MPs supporting his agenda, Leong said she “was sickened by their levels of hate”. She added that they’re a “dangerous group of people” committed to a “conformist view of what everyone in society needs to fit into”.
From the pulpit
Reverend Josephine Inkpin made history last year, when she became the first openly transgender person to become an Anglican priest in Australia. And today, she’s serving as minister at Sydney’s Pitt Street Uniting Church.
“It is time that some politicians and some religious leaders stop abusing religion to hurt people for their own interests,” the reverend told the rally.
“As I and many people of faith embody, there is not a necessary conflict between being sexually and/or gender diverse and being a person of faith.”
Reverend Inkpin outlined that the resistance to Latham and Co’s agenda needs to go further than simply “killing the bill”, as there needs to be a greater upholding of transgender rights, healthcare and provisions around education.
“We should be hopeful in a way about these bills and the religious resistance because it’s an admission that the Religious Right has failed,” Reverend Inkpin made clear.
This is about “certain groups in certain faiths who are seeking to secure their power because they are threatened by people like myself”.
Main image: Community Action for Rainbow Rights co-convenor April Holcombe
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.