A year since marriage equality, our rights are still under attack


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It’s been a year since marriage equality was won in Australia, but how much has actually changed for LGBTIQ people?

While thousands of people are happy that they have been allowed to get married, the oppression of LGBTIQ people remains. On some fronts, attempts are being made to increase discrimination.

Shortly after the marriage equality plebiscite Malcolm Turnbull commissioned the Religious Freedom Review, chaired by former Liberal government minister Philip Ruddock. Supposedly, religious freedoms had been compromised due to LGBTIQ people winning some basic equal rights.

This was far from the case. The review was nothing but an attempt to appease the Coalition’s conservative supporters, by opening up avenues to try and wind back the rights of LGBTIQ people in other areas of our lives.

The results were given to the government back in May but the report has still not been released to the public. This is despite a motion that the Senate passed in September demanding the findings be made available.

Despite the report being kept under wraps some recommendations have been leaked to the media. For example, it has been revealed that Ruddock has recommended that religious schools should be allowed the right to reject students and teachers from working or enrolling based on their sexuality and gender identity.

It seems that Ruddock is of the view that being gay somehow changes the way that English, maths or geography is taught!

While moves to pass these sorts of laws at a federal level need to be opposed, it should be noted that the ability to discriminate along these lines already exists in some states.

Anti-discrimination laws do theoretically protect LGBTIQ teachers but there are also states that have exemptions to these laws. These exemptions allow religious schools to hire and fire teachers on the basis of their sexual identity and marital status.

Ruddock believes this should be enshrined in the federal Sex Discrimination Act to allow all religious schools in Australia these powers of discrimination.

Whilst LGBTIQ people can now get married, in some states there is nothing protecting teachers from being fired the day after they tie the knot. We need to resist an extension of this.

The government is currently looking at how much of the Ruddock review they could potentially put into law. Labor have said that that they oppose this sort of discrimination but really, they are being disingenuous.

In January, deputy leader Tanya Plibersek stated that Labor had no intention of changing the laws that already exist that have allowed religious schools to fire LGBTIQ teachers and discriminate against students.

Plibersek stated that Labor “thinks the balance is about right”, relying on the supposed good nature of individual religious institutions to not discriminate.

The debate about these laws is far from a theoretical discussion. They have already had real life impacts on many LGBTIQ people. In November last year a school in Rockingham, Western Australia fired a teacher for revealing his sexuality in a Facebook post.

In addition, when the equal marriage plebiscite was being conducted, the Catholic church threatened to fire LGBTIQ teachers and other staff if they got married to someone of the same gender.

We need to push back against the Religious Freedom Review and any other measures designed to discriminate against LGBTIQ people under the false guise of protecting religious freedoms. We need to resist the normalisation of any form of discrimination.

While we should celebrate the anniversary of the marriage equality victory, it is clear that there is still a long way to go to win real equality for LGBTIQ people, let alone genuine liberation.

As the Socialist Party said at the time, ‘the fight doesn’t end with marriage equality’. Under any system based on profits and exploitation, which thrives on dividing working class people, the powers-that-be will always be looking for ways to wind back our rights and pit us against each other.

We need to reject that and work to unite people based on their common interests. Giving employers the ability to sack one group of workers actually reduces our ability to bargain for better wages and conditions for everybody.

An attack on LGBTIQ workers is an attack on us all! Unity is strength!

By Kai Perry

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