Sydney Condemns Morrison’s Attempt to Enshrine Religious Bigotry in Law

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Protest against religious discrimination

Before a crowd of protesters gathered at Sydney’s Taylor Square on Sunday, well known drag queen Etcetera Etcetera recalled spending 13 years in “incredibly religious, conservative school systems”, where they were taught that the way that they are is wrong.

The “proud non-binary trans person” warned that those right-wing forces in federal parliament who propose to pass the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 (the RD Bill) are pushing for these laws as they have the same agenda as “the bullies at school”.

“These right-wing conservatives… represent a faction of this society which wishes to take away everything we have fought for – that generations of queer people have fought for,” said the RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant. And they added, “The survival of our stories and histories are under attack”.

On addressing the rally, Dr Mehreen Faruqi described those behind the RD Bill as “Scott Morrison and his arch-conservative mates”. The Australian Greens Senator explained that they’ve “dressed up this bill as something that tackles discrimination, when we all know that it is the exact opposite”.

The right to be a bigot

The PM introduced the RD Bill on 25 November. Passing such laws has been his pet project since marriage equality was legalised in December 2017, when he was still treasurer.

The legislation now before parliament is the third iteration of the bill, which promotes discriminatory behaviour.

Experts agree that antidiscrimination laws protecting the adherents of religions are needed, and the bill does that.

But it also provides people of faith with the right to make “statements of belief” that are now classed as illegal and discriminatory under current laws. In facilitating these statements, the proposed laws would override all federal, state and territory protections going back to the 1970s.

So, what commenced as a Christian Right pushback against LGBTIQ people being extended the basic human right to marry, is now attempting to clear the way for discrimination based on sexuality, gender, sex, race, disability and age.

As One Nation state leader Mark Latham put it when introducing similar laws into NSW parliament, these measures are about enhancing the rights of Christians and heterosexuals.

And despite widespread public outrage in late 2018 around provisions within the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), which currently allow religious schools to sack LGBTIQ teachers, Morrison’s new bill seeks to extend this to all school staff, and to extinguish state and territory laws that prohibit it.

Kill the bills

“What a sign of how far we have come that they have to hide what they’re really trying to do under the guise of religious freedoms,” said Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) co-convenor April. “It’s about bigotry. It’s about privilege.”

CARR organised the 5 December Protest the Religious Discrimination Bill rally, as part of its ongoing campaign against the federal religious freedoms legislation, as well as two similar proposals that Latham has tabled in state parliament.

The LGBTIQ rights group was instrumental in the successful same-sex marriage campaign. And as NSW Council for Civil Liberties co-vice president Lydia Shelly made clear to demonstrators on Sunday, the RD Bill is “an ideological attack and retribution for marriage equality”.

“We represent the majority,” Aprll told the rally in conclusion. “We will be back out next year. If they want to make this an election issue – are you kidding me – alright, we will make it an election issue.”

Main photo: Drag queen and activist Etcetera Etcetera

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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