One student stands out from the rest of the graduation crowd in their solid black cap and gowns except for one brave lesbian woman who wears her gay pride colors proudly on her cap.

RUSU & NUS opposes the Religious Discrimination Bill in Federal Parliament

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia.

Today, Federal Parliament is debating the religious discrimination bill.

While the rights of queer people should not be discriminated against with the co-opting of religious ‘freedom’ as a shield for bigotry, in 2017 the government made a commitment to religious lobbies to review legislation of the same-sex marriage laws. Reciprocating the trauma of the plebiscite years on today.

Today, National Union of Students and RUSU have publically opposed the bill.

NUS Statement ‘Parliament needs to protect the Queer/LGBTQIA+ Community’.

What is the meaning behind this bill?

The legislative review came as a shock with it’s sole purpose to uphold compromises with conservative lobbiests. Across the countless drafts of the bill saw the ability of healthcare providers to refuse to provide treatment, celebrants to refuse marriage service amongst biproducts upon biproducts of the consequences of weakening discrimination laws.

The compromising of clear cut discrimination laws has green lit the right to be a bigot, with the provisions of the bill allowing a bypassing of federal laws if one can provide a ‘statement of belief’ in doing so. This particular part of the bill would allow businesses to not only refuse service, but for leadership in corporations to discriminate against staff on the basis of religious belief or doctrine.

‘This is an extraordinary departure from standard practice in federal anti-discrimination law. Standard practice is to ensure state and territory laws are not overridden.’ — Luke Beck, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law, Monash University

See for yourself, the bill is just as it states, and it is deeply destressing that Catalyst is not writing a single hyperbole of the havok of the bill.

Anna Brown from Equality Australia stated, ‘When … a nurse says to a patient with HIV that their HIV is a punishment by God, for example … which arguably constitutes discrimination today and which could constitute a statement of belief, would be protected under the law under this bill’.

But do we actually have a ‘religious freedom’ issue?

It has become a new spiral from the conservative rights to spray a ‘War on Christmas’, among a plethora of dog whistles in marketing of religious holidays in the previous decade. While the growing seeds of anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia grow in the community, the religious freedom to homophobia and abliesm is not the step the government should be taking. Therefore, while the opening of religious freedoms is crucial in Australia, the bill really just allows discrimination to easier to get away with. As previously said, the bill’s sole purpose is a revision to weaken the discrimination laws post-same-sex marriage legalisation, and is not a boost of governmental support for religious practice.

Today, RUSU has published a statement to oppose the bill, lead by the union’s two Queer Officers.

In the statement, ‘The Religious Discrimination Bill would take away existing anti-discrimination protections, on both state and federal level, including on the grounds of race, religion, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status’.

Continued… ‘Please contact your local MP before 12 pm today to make sure they do not support this bill. You can do this by simply clicking on the link below and filling in your details on the webform provided’.

RUSU collectively stands against the government’s bill to weaken the structures that uphold the safety of students and staff at RMIT and other universities across the country.

We would like to extend our thankyou to the effort of the RUSU Queer Officers for assembling this opposition.

Article Written by Jasper Cohen-Hunter

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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