Image Credit: HRLC Director Of Legal Advocacy Anna Brown and lawyer Lee Carnie courtesy of the Human Rights Legal Centre
On Thursday August 30, ten faith-based family violence services in Victoria, Australia pledged not to discriminate against LGBTI people who seek their help.
The services, which include The Salvation Army, Sacred Heart Mission, Jewish Care, VincentCare Victoria, Anglicare, The Uniting Church in Australia and Good Shepherd publicly signed the pledge which states:
“We welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse and intersex (LGBTIQ) people at our services. We pledge to provide inclusive and non-discriminatory services to LGBTIQ clients.”
The ten organisations have also committed to undertaking LGBTI inclusive accreditation and training.
Australia’s current anti-discrimination laws contain broad religious exemptions which allow religious organisations to refuse to provide facilities, services and goods to LGBTI people on religious grounds. The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended that these exemptions be reformed and measures put in place to encourage religious service providers to become more inclusive. Despite the review’s findings, no changes have been made to these laws.
“Many LGBTI people fear they’ll be mistreated when they seek help because of the public positions of some religious organisations and existing laws which allow taxpayer-funded religious organisations to discriminate in service delivery,” said Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.
“Today’s pledge draws a line in the sand. It says to LGBTI people – you will not be turned away because of who you are or who you love.”
"All people escaping family violence or in desperate need of housing should be treated with dignity and respect. Today’s pledge is a pivotal step forward for LGBTI people to feel confident that they can seek support when they most need it."
The Religious Freedom Review, which was commissioned by the Australian Government and completed in May, looked at the scope of the religious exemptions under current anti-discrimination laws. The findings from the review are yet to be made public, however conservative Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said last Monday that he expects “bold policy changes” to protect religious freedoms under Australia's new Prime Minister and marriage equality opponent, Scott Morrison.
"I'd be very confident that Scott Morrison, as our new prime minister, working with Christian Porter as our attorney-general - he's going to take action on religious freedom," Hastie told News Corp's Miranda Devine Live program on Monday August 27.
The Human Rights Legal Centre submission to the review called for the exemptions allowing religious organisations to discriminate in the provision of facilities, goods and services to be removed, particularly for government funded services.
"It’s time for the Morrison Government to remove these blanket religious exemptions and end the harm they cause to vulnerable communities,” Brown said in a statement on Thursday.
“Religious service providers and LGBTI people agree – we should all be able to access inclusive and non-discriminatory services, particularly when it comes to family violence, housing, health and other basic social support.”