The major parties contesting this week’s South Australian election should commit to removing harmful religious-based exemptions from the state’s discrimination laws.
With the state election being held on Saturday 19 March, RSA spokesperson for South Australia and board member Tanya Watkins is urging Premier Steven Marshall and Labor leader Peter Malinauskas to make their position on the issue clear to the voting public.
In 2020, the Marshall government released for public consultation 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 proposed changes would 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.
The government said the changes would prevent schools, for example, from “suspending, expelling or blocking entry to students, or otherwise subjecting students to unfavourable treatment”.
While the consultation period closed in November 2020, a finalised Bill was not tabled in parliament.
The RSA is lobbying a number of states to remove such exemptions from their anti-discrimination laws, arguing that, in the 21st century, it’s wrong for religious-based institutions to have such wide-ranging exemptions from the laws that govern the rest of us.
“We believe that South Australians should be able to go about their lives without facing this kind of discrimination. Both parties should commit to removing these harmful and hurtful exemptions from South Australia’s anti-discrimination laws,” said Ms Watkins.
With religious-based minor parties and candidates wanting to wind back laws relating to voluntary assisted dying and abortion rights, Ms Watkins said it would also be important for the next government to safeguard these reforms.
The RSA also wants to see the next South Australian government change the practice of opening parliament each day with exclusionary prayer rituals to make it something more inclusive.
“The South Australian community is a very diverse one, made up of people from different cultural, faith and non-faith beliefs. The state parliament should be a welcoming place for all, not just for some.”
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
Photos: Steven Marshall (Facebook), Peter Malinauskas (Facebook).