David Marr wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald today which should terrify a lot of people. The Australian Labor Party, that supposed bastion of people’s rights, is working on consolidating all Australian Federal anti-discrimination laws.
Sounds good, right?
Except, what will be enshrined in the laws will be the “get out of gaol free card” for all religious institutions, allowing them, by law, to discriminate in the hiring (or keeping) of staff who happen to not suit their religious sensitivities.
Imagine that. Under the aegis of this law, a religious organisation (or company owned by one) could refuse to hire:
- Gays and lesbians
- Unmarried mothers
- People who are “living in sin” (i.e., a couple living together, not married).
This is truly repellent. (One wonders if a logical conclusion for this might be a situation where a gay man has unemployment benefits cut off because he won’t apply for jobs with religious employers knowing it would require him to be in the closet.)
But services can be denied, applications rebuffed, promotions blocked and individuals picked off. It happens all the time. And because these men and women can be sacked at any time simply for being who they are, they have little-to-nil job security. BHP can’t sack an engineer for being gay but the Catholic Church can sack a surgeon from St Vincent’s Hospital for that alone.
David Marr, “Labor’s Antidiscrimination Legislation is a Bigots’ Charter“, SMH, 2013-01-14.
As a friend on Facebook said this morning:
Marriage equality is one thing but being employed and having job security or having public money used to discriminate is scary to me.
As you might expect, the LNP is supportive of this legislation, so chances are unless some heroic deal can be done in the senate, the only way to stop this will be to remind MPs they serve at our pleasure, not the other way around.
Here’s the letter I’ll be sending to Nicola Roxon’s office today. The attorney general is my local member, which makes things a little easier for me. I’d invite you to use it and send it to your local MP, or Nicola Roxon, or even the prime minister:
I’m writing to express my distaste and concern for the proposed changes to anti-discrimination legislation which would enshrine in law the ability of religious organisations to refuse to hire people whom they consider to offend the sensitivities of their beliefs.
As a gay man I accept that many religious organisations may have issue with my sexual orientation, but I fail to see how allowing them to actively discriminate against a plethora of individuals does anything to achieve equal rights in this country. Governments should lead by example, so in this, the government would be leading by saying “It’s OK to dislike someone for being gay, or lesbian, or transsexual, or living in sin, or a single mother”.
Consider that for a moment: both our current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and the Minister for Finance, Penny Wong, would themselves be potentially subject to discrimination on the grounds of the legislation to be introduced.
They may be comfortable with that.
I am not.
No government department, no private enterprise, or public company is afforded the right to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, relationship status or gender identity. That this legislation would allow religious organisations to do so, and maintain their tax exempt status whilst doing so is abhorrent and contrary to contemporary Australian values of equality and fairness.
People are entitled to their religious beliefs, but a purpose of the government should be to shield citizens from being affected by others beliefs, not shield the persecutors from prosecution. The message sent by this legislation will be cruel – and far from protecting the rights of all, will further send a message that this federal government believes non-heterosexuals are second class citizens.
The ALP should be a party of fairness and equality. These proposed laws represent neither.
Preston de Guise.