Discrimination against LGBT teachers
Labor has signalled that fixing the law to prevent discrimination against LGBT teachers may be accompanied by changes to allow religious schools to preserve their “ethos” and prevent contradiction of church doctrines.
Despite Labor offering to help the Morrison government legislate to remove discrimination against LGBT teachers and staff, debate on Wednesday revealed some Labor senators have serious reservations that the Greens bill does so without provisions that allow religious schools to preserve their character.
The disagreement could see progress on the Greens bill stall, as the Coalition has indicated it will craft its own legislation with Labor to protect LGBT students from discrimination but does not support the move to protect teachers.
The shadow assistant minister for equality, Louise Pratt, told the Senate that an innate attribute should not be a ground for discrimination but also recognised the rights of parents to “have children educated in accordance with their religious convictions”.
Teachers who behave “totally within the ethos” of a school who “just happen” to be LGBT, unmarried, or pregnant outside marriage should not be discriminated against, she said.
Pratt said there might be “a great deal of conduct [schools] cannot and should not tolerate”, such as teachers engaging in overt conversations about sexual matters or a Scientologist trying to “recruit students at a Catholic school”.
The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told Guardian Australia that Labor “has said consistently that we respect the right of religious schools to run their organisations in line with their beliefs and traditions”.
“This is not incompatible with removing discrimination against LGBTI kids and teachers,” he said. “No one should be denied an education, fired or denied employment based on who they are or who they love.”
Dreyfus said Labor will continue to consult with the community and work with “all sides of parliament” to remove discrimination.