Fifty people attended a vigil against discrimination outside an Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) meeting in Launceston on Monday night.
The vigil was in defence of section 17 of Tasmania’s landmark Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits humiliating, intimidating, insulting and offensive behaviour.
The ACL wants to water down this section to allow such behaviour in the name of religion, organisers said.
Another vigil in defence of section 17 is planned outside the ACL meeting in Hobart this Saturday 4 September.
“It was great to have such a diversity of everyday Launcestonians defending our Anti-Discrimination Act,” said vigil organiser Alison Jales.
“Section 17 of the Act, which the ACL wants to weaken, provides protections from bullying for many Tasmanians, especially people with disability, who make up the majority of complainants.
“Our message was for Tasmanians to take pride in our inclusive laws and the more inclusive society they have helped foster.
“We don’t want people coming here from other states lecturing us about what our law should say when we are quite happy with it as is.”
The first two versions of the Federal Government’s proposed religious discrimination bill have also sought to weaken section 17 to allow humiliating and intimidating behaviour if it is in the name of religion.
“At a time when we need to all work together against a global pandemic, it’s mind-boggling that the ACL wants to foster division and discrimination,” said Craig Hislop from the Pride Society of the University of Tasmania.
“Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act has fostered a more inclusive and equal society, and we are determined to defend it from those who want to water it down,” said Rodney Croome from Equality Tasmania.
Jales said that the local community thrives on “respect, empathy, tolerance, and equality”.
“Diminishing the power of section 17 makes many members of our community, including those with disabilities and LGBTIQA+ members, vulnerable to being offended, humiliated, intimidated, insulted and ridiculed,” Jales said.