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More than half Australians oppose allowing schools to sack gay teachers, polling shows | Australian politics

PoliticsMore than half Australians oppose allowing schools to sack gay teachers, polling shows | Australian politics

More than half of Australians oppose laws allowing faith-based schools to legally sack or refuse to hire teachers on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, as the proposed changes to discrimination and religious discrimination law once again reach a political deadlock.

The new data comes as a Brisbane religious school, Citipointe Christian College, issued an expression of regret on Sunday after it released an enrolment contract in 2022 that included a “statement of faith” implying that transgender students would only be recognised by their “biological sex”, and described homosexual acts as “immoral” and “offensive to God”.

The polling of more than 1,500 Australians, commissioned by the advocacy group Just.Equal Australia, shows 52% are against an exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act – which allows religious schools to discriminate against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status – while 35% support it.

Greens voters taking part in the poll opposed the exemption most strongly at 76%, while Labor and Liberal voters opposed it at 64% and 37%.

The Albanese government announced it had drafted two bills in March after the release of a landmark report from the Australian Law Reform Commission, which recommended that the blanket exemptions be repealed.

One of the bills will repeal a series of religious exemptions for faith-based schools and services while the other bill proposes to introduce protections against religious vilification. The bills have not been publicly released.

Anthony Albanese said the bills would only go ahead if there was bipartisanship with the Coalition, though the prime minister flagged that the Greens could be a potential pathway in the Senate.

The Coalition has so far refused to offer its final position on the bills, with the shadow attorney general, Michaelia Cash, telling Sky on Friday that the prime minister needed to consult further with religious groups.

Cash met with the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, in May. Both sides accused the other of aggressive behaviour in the meeting, which they both denied.

The shadow attorney general told Sky on Friday that her feedback to Dreyfus had been to “take on board the feedback from the faith groups, redraft the legislation and release it transparently”.

“Enough is enough,” Cash said. “Stop playing games with faith in Australia.”

A spokesperson for Dreyfus said: “No Australian should be discriminated against because of who they are or what they believe.

“The government is seeking an enduring solution that strengthens protections for students, teachers and people of faith. And that’s why we’ve consistently said bipartisan support is essential.”

Just.Equal Australia’s commissioned polling also revealed 59% of respondents were opposed to government funding going towards religious schools that discriminate against teachers and students on the basis of sexuality and gender identity while 29% were in favour.

On exemptions allowing faith-based services, such as hospitals, employment services and disability services, to discriminate, 65% were opposed while 24% supported it.

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“If Labor wants to stop voters who care about discrimination defecting to the Greens or independents at the next election, it must take action to repeal laws that allow discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in faith-based organisations,” said Brian Greig, the group’s spokesperson.

“With the election less than a year away, Labor is running out of time to fulfil the promise it made to Labor voters that it will end discrimination in faith-based schools.”

The Greens’ justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said the Greens remained ready to work with Labor to protect the most vulnerable.

“Where there are intersecting rights, it is essential that we look for a way forward that protects the most vulnerable and prevents the greatest amount of harm,” he said.

“It is incredibly frustrating that Labor says it only wants to deal with the Coalition on these reforms and then laying political blame with the Coalition for the lack of reform.”’

Guardian Australia reported in 2022 that teachers at Citipointe Christian College had been asked to sign employment contracts warning they could be sacked for being openly homosexual.

What is the religious discrimination bill? And why are Australians still talking about it? – video

Student enrolment contracts also insisted students could only be enrolled on the basis of “biological sex”.

Citipointe’s statement on Sunday acknowledged the distress and concern the contracts and statements caused parents, students and guardians, noting that the issues had been resolved after settlement discussions.

“We regret any distress or concern, which was caused to students, parents and guardians of the students or prospective students of the college, which includes those within the college community that are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and their families and their allies, as a result of the issuance of the enrolment contract in January 2022,” it said.

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