South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance Ruddock Submission

The LGBTIQ+ community… continue to experience discrimination, vilification and harm as a result of the failure of governments to legislate protections and remove discrimination. Religion… both here in Australia and abroad was not under such attack

The context of the review

Following the successful 2017 YES campaign to change the Marriage Law of Australia, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion. The Panel is to:

consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights have regard to any previous or ongoing reviews or inquiries that it considers relevant consult as widely as it considers necessary.

It is not without some irony that SARAA makes this submission given that from the outset, freedom of religion is considered a basic human right and yet marriage equality, which had significant support across Australia was not and required a postal survey to become established in law within Australia. The outcome of the postal survey clearly demonstrated the ability of the broader Australian community to differentiate between civil law and religious dogma. It also highlighted the already existing protections for religion within Australia and the Federal Parliament agreed with that belief by voting down any amendments to the Senator Dean Smith Bill.

SARAA notes with concern the appointment of Philip Ruddock as Chair of the Panel. It was Mr Ruddock who was the author of the Howard Governments original change to the Marriage Act, specifically excluding same sex couples from marrying. Mr Ruddock and the Panel are therefore unlikely, in SARAAs opinion, to be unbiased in its deliberations. In addition, SARAA notes that prior to the postal survey there was no call for a review into religious freedom, and that this review is the result of the loss by the No campaign.

Religious people and expression of religion is not under attack, LGBTIQ+ community is.

The LGBTIQ+ community both here in Australia and abroad have and continue to experience discrimination, vilification and harm as a result of the failure of governments to legislate protections and remove discrimination. Religion from the outset both here in Australia and abroad was not under such attack or discrimination and indeed as highlighted in this submission, governments have established laws that specifically protect religion and religious organisations beyond that which is available to other sections of the community.

Religious freedom is already protected

It is SARAAs strong contention that there already exist significant protections within Australian Federal and State / Territory laws that provide for the protection of religion and in fact enables various religious organisations the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs:

  • The International convention on Civil and Political Rights Article 18:
  • Section 116 of the Australian Constitution
  • Australian Fair Work Act 2009
  • The South Australian Equal Opportunity Act 1984
  • Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • The Marriage Act

SARAA believes that in establishing this Expert Panel on Religious Freedom those from the NO Campaign on Marriage Equality who failed to obtain Parliamentary support for amendments to the Senator Dean Smith Bill are now seeking to re-litigate their arguments to enable discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status via this politically devised opportunistic endeavour.

The postal survey outcome voted for fairness not more discrimination

The Australian community overwhelmingly voted to support equality and fairness for the LGBTIQ community of Australia, the postal survey was not established as an avenue for further institutionalised discrimination.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years."Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)