Friday, 11th February, 2022
It will come as little surprise that ALBANY PRIDE has been strongly opposed to the Religious Discrimination Bill from the beginning of its inception, simply because it seeks to legalise discrimination and prejudice against a variety of demographics, including – but not limited to – LGBTQA+ people, under the guise of ‘religious freedom’.
The idea that discrimination can be acceptable if someone holds a ‘deeply held religious belief’ is ludicrous: everybody, regardless of religious affiliation, have ‘deeply held’ beliefs. Such beliefs are no more or less deeply held, sincere, or worthy if they are religious, or irreligious, in nature. So, to permit any discrimination based on ‘deeply held’ religious beliefs is to give the green-light to discrimination across our society.
The idea that the Religious Discrimination Bill set to protect the rights of religious people is nothing short of absurd, as it permitted discrimination based on religious belief itself, particularly those of minority faiths. There is no doubt that there are religious people in our society that suffer from prejudice and discrimination, but the bill wasn’t created to protect them. It sought to give extra privilege and exemption to the already privileged and powerful fundamentalist Christian groups of society, and nothing highlights this more than the Australian Christian Lobby’s lobbying for it in the first place, and subsequent withdrawal of support for it which has seen it ‘shelved’, after amendments were put in place to prevent discrimination against students on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.
Once again, the lives and wellbeing of LGBTQA+ people were put up for debate and used for political gain and point-scoring. Many have labelled the ‘shelving’ of the Religious Discrimination Bill because of the amendments as a ‘win’: but for LGBTQA+ people, this doesn’t feel like a ‘win’, but rather, a temporary delay. Until we know for certain that legislation that legalises discrimination against LGBTQA+ people and the other impacted communities and demographics is completely off the table and won’t merely be postponed until after the upcoming election, all we have is respite from the continual debate surrounding our lives.
This is, put simply, powerful and privileged people playing political games with the lives of vulnerable young people, due to a lobby group’s continued toxic and unhealthy obsession with LGBTQA+ people, amplified by their failed and pathetic attempt to prevent marriage equality nearly five years ago, a group that cries ‘discrimination’ because they are unable to legally discriminate themselves. The utter hypocrisy and churlishness of such a group would be pitiful, if it wasn’t so poisonous.
As with the marriage equality debate, the Religious Discrimination Bill has heightened anxiety within our community. ALBANY PRIDE would like to give our sincere gratitude and admiration for all the organisations and people that worked tirelessly to ensure the Religious Discrimination Bill was treated with the publicity and scrutiny it needed, and for the organisations that continue to work and advocate for the rights, wellbeing and connectedness of LGBTQIA+ people and other at-risk demographics and communities across Australia.
ALBANY PRIDE also gives its complete support to the protests and gatherings against the Religious Discrimination Bill that are taking place around the country, particularly as they provide a visible and powerful reminder to vulnerable people that they are not alone, but we do ask that you follow the relevant COVID-19 mandates put in place by state and national governments.
We implore our political representatives, locally, state-wide, and nationally to ensure that any legislation that seeks to legalise discrimination against any demographic – whether it be on the basis of sexuality, gender, intersex status, ethnic or cultural background, disability or neurodivergence, age, or indeed religious affiliation – be prevented. Our lives and our rights do not need to be put up for debate, they need to be guaranteed.
As always during times like this, we encourage members of the LGBTQA+ community and their families, friends and allies to look after their health and wellbeing. A list of support networks is available on our website at https://albanypride.com.au/support/. We encourage you to check-in on each other, and to take the time to look after your health and wellbeing with some self-care.
To anyone who is struggling, please remember you are not alone, you are loved, and please seek all the necessary support you need: you are important.
Sincerely, ALBANY PRIDE.