No vote on religious discrimination bill as Parliament adjourns

Parliament has adjourned for the year with no vote on the religious discrimination bill.

The Morrison Government this week agreed to modify the bill to protect LGBTIQA+ students from discrimination in schools. 

Several moderate Liberal MPs have committed to supporting the bill with the new amendments, The Guardian has reported.

“No child should be rejected or be made to feel ashamed on these grounds by an educational institution,” said Queensland MP Angie Bell.

“In Australia, every child has the right to access quality education so they can prepare for the real world.

“As the necessary amendments have been made to strengthen the rights of children in religious schools, I support the prime minister and the attorney general with passage of the religious discrimination bill and will vote in its favour.”

Wentworth MP Dave Sharma also stated his support for amendments to protect diverse students and teachers. 

“Preventing the ability of religious schools to discriminate against students and teachers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity remains of fundamental importance to me,” said Sharma.

Higgins MP Katie Allen and Reid MP Fiona Martin have also agreed to support the modified bill.

The party remains split over the bill, with Liberal MPs Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman, and Bridget Archer yet to say they support it.

Along with division among the government, religious groups including the Australian Christian Lobby are threatening to withdraw their support for the bill over the changes.

Christian Schools Australia called the deal to protect LGBTIQA+ students by removing religious schools’ exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act “appalling”.

Wendy Francis, national director of politics of the Australian Christian Lobby, said that the exemption “protects the teaching and daily operation of faith-based schools” and that removing it would be “extremely unhelpful”.

The major parties agreed last week to an additional Senate inquiry into the bill.

Parliament resumes next year on 8 February, with the next federal election set to be held as early as March.

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