The Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 will not protect trans students from being expelled, the Federal Government has confirmed.
The Coalition has committed to amending the bill to add protection from expulsion for students “because of their sexuality”, but Finance Minister and leader of the Senate Simon Birmingham has revealed it’ll stop there.
“The proposal is to repeal the exemption as it relates to sexual orientation, [but] it doesn’t go further than that,” Birmingham said on ABC RN on Tuesday morning.
But he confirmed the protection of trans students would be formally reviewed by the Australian Law Reform Commission, meaning any changes to the Sex Discrimination Act would be delayed by at least 12 months.
Birmingham said the amendment was “a positive step forward” and protections for trans and gender diverse students would be subject to review, but obviously this means fuck all for those students right now.
Protection from expulsion has been a topic of heated debate within the Liberal Party this month because some MPs, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, want to see it added to the bill while conservative members absolutely do not. And neither do Christian lobby groups.
One group told Guardian Australia that by introducing the amendments Morrison would be “ignoring the voice of the Christian community”.
Morrison previously committed to preventing “any form of discrimination against a student on the basis of sexuality or gender identity” in a letter to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on December 1, 2021.
Some MPs have been pushing to remove section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act: the one that gives schools the right to discriminate based on gender and sexuality.
That section of the Act makes it legal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status if it’s in relation to an educational institution’s beliefs, teachings and doctrines.
The Citipointe Christian College scandal broke in early February. It was revealed the private school’s enrolment contract allowed students to be expelled based on their sexuality or gender identity.
Morrison took a stand against such discrimination days later and against committed to amending the bill. But that pledge was walked back by Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker just 24 hours later.
The Religious Discrimination Bill will be in parliament on Tuesday. But with so much internal division, it will likely need the support of Labor to pass.