Vic bans schools from sacking LGBTIQ staff

Victoria has passed laws to stop religious schools sacking staff based on their sexual orientation.
Victoria has passed laws to stop religious schools sacking staff based on their sexual orientation.

Victorian parliament has passed laws banning religious schools from sacking or refusing to hire staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, setting the stage for a legal battle with the federal government.

The Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill passed the upper house 22 votes to 12 on Friday afternoon.

The bill makes it unlawful for religious bodies and schools to "discriminate against an employee because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or other protected attribute".

Under the proposal, government-funded religious bodies will also be prohibited from refusing services to people based on their sexual preference or gender.

Schools and organisations will be allowed to make employment decisions based on an employee's religious beliefs where it is critical to the job, such as the hiring of a religious studies teacher.

Similar laws have been in place in Tasmania for several years. But both states' laws will be overridden if the federal government's Religious Discrimination Bill becomes law.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's bill, if passed, will allow religious schools to preference hiring people of a particular faith as long as this is a publicly available policy.

The proposed law would protect people making "statements of belief" as long as they do not vilify or threaten others.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes has vowed to defend her laws, which would likely involve launching a High Court challenge.

She cried as she told parliament the Victorian government had the LBGTI community's "back".

"I hope that with this long-overdue change all LGBTIQ+ Victorians can live authentically free of fear and in no doubt that laws such as this also have their back," Ms Symes said.

Labor MP Harriet Shing, the first openly lesbian member of Victorian parliament, criticised the Coalition for opposing the bill.

"Voting against this bill because you think you know tolerance and inclusion is not to know the discrimination that I face," she tearfully told parliament.

"For our entire lives, we are told that we're different and we're told in too many cases that that difference is unacceptable."

Ms Shing said the Morrison government's Religious Discrimination Bill will licence bigotry.

"(It) means that I can continue to be told that I belong in hell, that I'm a disgrace, that I'm not worthy of being included in the way that others are, because for some reason, religious belief trumps my identity," she said.

Australian Associated Press