Discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people in religious schools is “endemic”

Discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people in religious schools is “endemic”
Image: A Protester At The ‘Equality Not Austerity’ Mardi Gras Rally In Sydney In 2023. Photograph: Richard Milnes/REX/Shutterstock



LGBTIQ+ advocates are continuing to call for the Albanese government to release their proposed changes to bills on religious discrimination, and the protections of LGBTIQ+ students and staff in religious schools.

A new report has been released from Equality Australia, titled ‘Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned: A national report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools and organisations’.

It includes an in-depth investigation into the true extent of LGBTIQ+ discrimination in religious educational institutions and faith-based service providers in Australia, which the report says is “endemic”.

Shocking stories of LGBTIQ+ discrimination

It also includes 26 personal stories from LGBTQ+ people who have lived experience of discrimination from religious institutions.

These include:

  • A Queensland student who left her school in 2021 after a religious counsellor told her it was a ‘choice to be gay’ and spent lunchtimes ‘praying the gay away’ with her
  • A teacher at a Queensland Christian school who was told in 2015 by the principal to stop being openly gay.
  • A parent who is moving her family from Sydney’s Northern Beaches after two religiously affiliated high schools refused to enrol her trans daughter and another two threatened to impose extreme conditions as a condition of her enrolment.
  • A teacher who was fired from her role at a tertiary college in 2020 in Sydney after she became engaged to her same-sex partner.

“We have uncovered the tip of an ugly iceberg of LGBTQ+ discrimination,” says Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh. “For every person who speaks publicly there are countless more who have either been discriminated against because of who they are, or are hiding it because they fear the repercussions.”

Equality Australia’s report calls for stronger federal anti-discrimination laws that protect all LGBTIQ+ people, as well as the removal of legal carve-outs and alternative loopholes that allow faith-based institutions and service providers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Proposed changes to discrimination laws

Before the election in 2022, Labor leader Anthony Albanese proposed changes to federal law to achieve these protections, as well as protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Last week, the Australian Law Reform Commission report was released with proposals on how the government could protect both the LGBTIQ+ community and people’s religious beliefs. Equality Australia has backed the ALRC report, but many religious groups have rejected the proposal.

While these are yet to be publicly released, Labor is reportedly proposing to:

  • Amend the Sex Discrimination Act, including repealing section 38 (which allows religious schools to discriminate against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status).
  • Create a Religious Discrimination Act, including the right of schools to preference staff based on religious beliefs.

What’s next?

The Prime Minister confirmed that he has approached opposition leader Peter Dutton to seek bipartisan support, and the legislation would not proceed without it. At present, the Coalition has not provided their support.

You can read Equality Australia’s full report here.

This story discusses discrimination, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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