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Call to scrap religious discrimination bill following US civil rights ruling

Australian equality advocates have called for the Morrison government to scrap its religious discrimination bill, following Monday’s landmark US ruling that expands discrimination protections.

The US Supreme Court ruled that people of diverse genders and orientations are protected from discrimination in employment under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which in part prohibits discrimination based on sex.

In Australia, the religious discrimination bill proposed by the federal government would weaken existing protections for LGBTIQ people and other marginalised groups, if discrimination is in the name of religion.

Rodney Croome, spokesperson for advocacy group just.equal, said that the US decision set a precedent that Australia should follow.

“The US Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the Morrison government that enacting stronger discrimination protections for LGBTIQ people is the right thing to do, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum,” Croome said.

“The Supreme Court decision confirms LGBTIQ inclusion and dignity to be a civil right that trumps the divisive and dehumanising ideology behind Australia’s flawed religious discrimination bill.

“It’s time for the Morrison government to withdraw the religious discrimination bill and instead enact a broad-ranging human rights act to protect all rights equally.”

The religious discrimination bill has been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, but LGBTIQ advocates fear it will be introduced to parliament later this year or in 2021.

Croome said that the US Supreme Court decision will improve the lives of many LGBTIQ Americans.

The ruling comes at a time when the Trump administration is winding back existing LGBTIQ discrimination protections, including for trans Americans accessing healthcare.

“The message from the Supreme Court to the White House is that all Americans deserve equal protection under the law,” said Croome.

If enacted, Australia’s religious discrimination bill would have effects including allow health practitioners to refuse treatment to minorities and overriding state laws by allowing humiliating or intimidating language in the name of religion.

The government has been inundated with objections to the bill from advocacy groups and members of the community.

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