The Rationalist Society of Australia has helped put the issue of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws on the radar of the new Labor government in South Australia.
In response to a letter from the RSA, Attorney-General Kyam Maher (pictured) said that he would “give further consideration” to the matter.
In 2020, the former Marshall government held a public consultation on draft legislation to amend the state’s Equal Opportunity Act to remove the ability of faith-based service providers to discriminate on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
The draft Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 sought to prevent discrimination in staffing practices and service provision for clients in the areas of children’s education, health care and disability support, aged care, emergency accommodation, public housing, foster care placement and children’s residential services.
Following the state election in March, RSA’s spokespeople for South Australia, Tanya Watkins and Stella Thomas, wrote to Premier Peter Malinauskas and Mr Maher to urge them to remove religious-based exemptions from the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
“Such exemptions to anti-discrimination laws cause much harm in the community and have no place in modern society. It’s simply wrong for religious-based institutions to have such wide-ranging exemptions from the laws that govern the rest of us, especially when these institutions receive significant public funding,” they wrote.
“Will your government commit to removing religious exemptions from the Equal Opportunity Act?”
Last month, Mr Maher thanked the RSA for bringing to his attention our concerns about the religious exemptions.
“The issue of whether to amend the religious exceptions in the EO Act is a matter to which I will give further consideration.”
In Western Australia, the RSA is awaiting the release of a Law Reform Commission report of its review into that state’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984. Last year, the RSA made a submission as part of that review process.
The Law Reform Commission’s report has been delivered to the state’s Attorney-General, John Quigley.
The Victorian government last year passed laws to remove religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws, with the changes coming into effect in recent weeks.
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
Photo: Kyam Maher MLC (Facebook)