Australia’s prime minister says he will make clear legal amendments to make clear that religious schools should not be allowed to expel LGBTI students.
Scott Morrison has made assurances that anti-discrimination legislation would be updated to protect the rights of LGBTI students.
This comes following the release of a controversial federal review which recommends granting religious schools the right to reject students on the grounds of their sexuality.
The Australian Labor Party has offered bipartisan support to update the current legislation, the Guardian reports.
Morrison said that Attorney General Christian Porter will begin making amendments to the current law to remove religious exemptions within a matter of weeks.
‘Our government does not support [the] expulsion of students from religious non-state schools on the basis of their sexuality,’ Morrison said.
‘I also know that this view is widely shared by religious schools and communities across the country,’ he added.
Morrison added that the issue would be raised in parliament within the ‘next fortnight’, and proposed legislation which ‘will give all students and parents the certainty they require’.
A heated debate surrounding LGBTI discrimination in schools come after the publication of a long-awaited federal review into religious freedoms, which was chaired by former attorney general Philip Ruddock.
The review was launched last year by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to appease religious and conservative groups following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia.
Released on Tuesday (9 October) the review recommended that the Sex Discrimination Act to allow religious education establishments could legally turn away LGBTI students or staff.
The recommendations angered Australian LGBTI rights groups and their allies, who are concerned that it any moves by the government to implement the recommendations could override state anti-discrimination laws.
The Australian Greens have also been vocal in their opposition to the review, describing the recommendations as ‘disastrous’, and calling on major parties to introduce legislation to protect the rights of LGBTI students and staff at religious schools.
‘Our laws should protect LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination, not enshrine the right to discriminate against them,’ said Greens senator, Janet Rice.
Morrison had initially defended the review’s recommendations, saying that the government would ‘protect religious freedoms, and get the balance right.’
However, the prime minister backtracked on Thursday (11 October). While he claimed that he should have made clear sooner that schools should not be allowed to expel students based on their sexuality, Morrison also said that some findings of the review into religious freedoms had been misinterpreted.