Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich is seeking to narrow religious exemptions in the Australian state of New South Wales’ (NSW) anti-discrimination laws which allow schools run by religious groups to refuse to educate LGBT students and students in a range of other situations.
‘Currently NSW private school students can be expelled for being gay, lesbian, transgender, a teen mum, or a having a disability,’ Greenwich said in introducing his bill earlier today.
‘The threat of expulsion has a negative impact on what are often vulnerable students and their learning and development.’
Greenwich told the parliament about the experiences of several young LGBT people who had spoken to him.
‘One student told me about being openly gay in years 11 and 12 at an Anglican college in 2008 and 2009,’ Greenwich said.
‘He says he was regularly sent to the counselor’s office for being “sick” because he was gay. He says he often came home from school and locked himself in his room to cry.’
‘Another student, a lesbian teen from a Catholic Marist college, told me her English teacher told her she was disgusting and a disgrace to the school and the Catholic religion. The student was taken to the coordinator’s office and told she was “skating on thin ice” and might not be let into senior school.
‘Another private school student tells me that his school found out he was gay six weeks before the HSC and told him at a meeting set with his mother that he could not talk about his sexuality, he would need to see a counselor and he would be excluded from school events.
Greenwich called on the NSW Government to grant a conscience vote on his bill as it has done with voluntary euthanasia, a bill to declare a fetus a person at 20 weeks into a pregnancy, and same-sex marriage.
‘It is important for the vulnerable students like those mentioned in my speech that they know there are people in the Government who do not tolerate this sort of discrimination, and I know there are,’ Greenwich said.
In a discussion paper on his bill Greenwich wrote that his ‘Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Private Educational Authorities) Bill 2013 will make private schools and private education institutions subject to the same laws that make discrimination unlawful in public schools.’
‘Private education institutions include private universities, colleges and specialty schools like business schools,’ he wrote.
‘Students in private schools should not be treated any less favorably than students in public schools.’
Greenwich is a former national spokesman for the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia.