South Australian government “not considering” religious exemptions issue

Si Gladman / 22 December 2023

The South Australia government appears to have walked away from proposals to amend the state’s Equal Opportunity Act to remove exemptions for religious bodies.

Last month, Attorney-General Kyam Maher (pictured) told the parliament that the Malinauskas government was not currently considering the issue.

As the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) reported in April, Mr Maher had previously said the government was considering proposed amendments and similar reforms to those introduced in other Labor-governed states and territories.

Greens upper house member Robert Simms has been pursuing the government on this issue, raising it in parliament last year and again this year.

In the context of questions in the Legislative Council in November about the prospect of new religious vilification laws, Mr Simms asked Mr Maher:

As part of its consideration of anti-discrimination laws, will the government consider removing religious exemptions that allow discrimination against LGBTI people and women?

Mr Maher responded:

It is not something that is currently under consideration, but we are always open to hearing the views of people and what they would like us to look at.

Soon after the state election last year, the RSA put the issue on Mr Maher’s radar and urged him to revive the former Liberal government’s proposal to remove the ability of faith-based service providers to discriminate on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Mid last year, Mr Maher wrote to the RSA to say that he would “give further consideration” to the matter.

Following that, Mr Simms asked Mr Maher what the government’s process would be for removing the religious exemptions that apply to equal opportunity laws.

In February this year, Mr Maher told Mr Simms that a number of stakeholders had made representations regarding possible amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.

“I am considering these proposals, as well as recent reforms in Victoria, and recently proposed or recommended reforms in Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia. We have also been working in the background on this issue, and will continue to do so,” he said.

At the federal level, the Australian Law Reform Commission is due to release its report this month for its inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws, addressing the religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws in educational settings.

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Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

Image: Kyam Maher MLC (Facebook)

All the more reason.