Rainbow Families made a submission to the Australian Government’s review into religious freedom.

The review was initiated by the Government in response to opponents of marriage equality expressing concerns that their religious freedoms may be impinged upon by allowing LGBTIQ couple to marry. 

During the postal survey, they asked for the right to refuse more services to LGBTIQ people in the name of freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion is protected by s116 of the constitution which prohibits the Government from enacting legislation that prevents the free exercise of religion. 

And our anti-discrimination laws already contain a number of exemptions that allow organisations to discriminate against our community.

In practice, these exemptions have enabled religious organisations running schools to refuse to hire or to dismiss employees based on their sexuality as well as refusing enrolment to children who have same-sex parents.

These organisations are granted large amounts of taxpayer funds to deliver services to the general public and are major employers. They should be required to deliver these services in a way that is equitable and accountable to the public. Such discrimination should not be supported by public funding. 

During the postal survey last year, it was our families who bore the brunt of hate during the national debate about changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry, and it is our families who now face further hatred being entrenched in the name of religious freedom.

We asked our community to tell us about their experiences in dealing with existing organisations who are exempt from anti-discrimination legislation, and what they thought of proposals to introduce further exemptions.

Our community told us they are united in opposition to entrenching further discrimination against our families. 

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Rainbow Families believes that existing exemptions to anti-discrimination law unfairly target our community. We made the following recommendations to the Expert Panel:

  1. Existing exemptions should be reviewed with a view to removing exemptions from organisations that receive public funding or educate children. These organisations are granted large amounts of taxpayer funds to deliver services to the general public and are major employers. They should be required to deliver these services in a way that is equitable and accountable to the public. Such discrimination should not be supported by public funding. 
  2. Rainbow families does not support the extension of new exemptions under the Sex Discrimination Act to commercial enterprises who wish to refuse goods and services for same sex weddings or for any other purpose. Removing current protections in the Sex Discrimination Act would give licence to individuals and companies to discriminate against same sex couples on the most tenuous grounds.
  3. The right to have a religion and the right to manifest that religion where doing so would harm another person is a delicate balance in a multifaith society. Rainbow Families acknowledges the need to balance equality with the right to religious freedom but submit that existing measures already provide sufficient protection for religious freedom and in some cases, extend too far at the expense of equality. Measures such as those proposed would undermine the hard-fought right of marriage equality. 

 

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