The petitioner who inspired more than 160,000 Australians to voice their opposition to the Religious Discrimination Bill wants politicians to sit up and take notice.
Emma Linton believes that the public support for her petition, Stop the Religious Discrimination Bill: the Coalition’s “Handmaid’s Tale” change.org, sends a strong message to members of the federal parliament.
Ms Linton launched the petition in late December 2019, following the release of the first draft exposure of the bill. Currently, more than 163,600 people have signed it.
“That’s such an overwhelming response. I think it’s one of the most-signed petitions on change.org – which I think is really reflective of just how concerned the everyday Australian is about this,” she told the Rationalist Society of Australia.
“The pure volume of these signatures is really something that shows our politicians – who are really representing the vast majority of us – that they need to listen to the concern of Australians overall.
“I think it is a really strong message to be able to put to politicians – that this is not something that the majority of Australians want; this is not something that Australians have asked for.”
Ms Linton was inspired to take action after first learning about the bill and how it would disproportionately affect women and vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities and LGBTIQ people.
“I was just furious. I couldn’t sit still. I was thinking, ‘Surely, there’s got to be something we could do about this. And I just did the only thing I knew how to, and that was start a petition,” she said.
Her petition also referenced popular TV series The Handmaid’s Tale in warning that the bill would turn Australia into Gilead.
“We were actually watching The Handmaid’s Tale at the time when this bill was being introduced. I saw this sudden and striking parallel between our free society where everyone should be treated equally and what society could be when certain population groups are favoured above others under the guise or premise of religious freedoms,” she said.
“I think something that I find – I’ve always found – a little bit difficult is seeing the way that certain religious doctrine does disproportionately affect women and minority groups. And I think this bill was kind of the ultimate manifestation of that.”
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman