Sadly the Australian Federal Government seems intent on once more causing trouble for its LGBTIQ+ citizens. For the recently released draft Religious Discrimination Bill again reflects the militant drive of the Religious (and wider) Right rather than a desire to find a pathway to recognise all Australians as equal in law, respect and value. After the pain of the unnecessary postal survey campaign on equal marriage, there has been little let up for LGBTIQ+ Australians as some others have pursued what often seems like a deliberate vendetta. Significant elements and figures in Australia's Christian community continue to be major offenders in this, obsessed with their own narrow sectarian agendas and preservation of power and privilege. The consequence is further understandable alienation of many from religious bodies. LGBTIQ+ people of faith consequently also find ourselves further marginalised, sometimes not always finding 'safe space' within the wider LGBTIQ+ community. The Right's drive to posit the nonsense of 'God v the Gays' and a repressive 'LGBTIQ+ agenda' thus currently bears fruit. Thank God therefore for the existence of bodies such as Equal Voices, the national network of LGBTIQA+ Christians and allies, together with other LGBTIQA+ people of other faith, and partnerships with some other key LGBTIQA+ groups and leaders. Together we seek genuine freedom for all. As a member of the Equal Voices national board, I thus felt myself impelled yesterday to speak out with others in our movement about the failings of the Federal Government's approach. This follows my participation in shared advocacy with other LGBTIQA+ people (as in my speech at the Brisbane rally recently). See here below further for the words of our media release...
EQUAL VOICES CALLS FOR EFFECTIVE CONSULTATION AND A DELAY TO ANY INTRODUCTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM LEGISLATION UNTIL MID 2020 AT THE EARLIEST
Equal Voices is an Australia-wide grassroots movement of LGBTIAQ+ Christians and their allies committed to giving an equal voice to all.
Spokesperson The Revd Dr Josephine Inkpin makes the following statement: “Equal Voices calls upon the Prime Minister and Attorney General to significantly expand the consultation process for the proposed Religious Freedom Legislation. We therefore request a delay in the introduction of any legislation until the middle of next year at the earliest.”
Equal Voices noted that “As far as we know, there has not been any consultation in drafting this legislation with LGBTIAQ+ groups or LGBTIAQ+ communities of faith. These pieces of legislation appear clearly aimed at the LGBTIAQ+ community in response to the introduction of the Marriage Equality laws in 2017, which were overwhelmingly supported by the Australian population.”
“The Attorney General has not been able, in our view, to adequately demonstrate the need for such legislation, nor is there justification for this last-minute speed, especially given the serious lack of consultation. The Liberal-National Coalition Government has already put the LGBTIAQ+ community through significant pain and anguish as a result of its unnecessary and extended postal survey process. This latest proposed legislation is likely to have a much more pervasive impact on Australian society and simply hasn’t been subject to real consultation or review.”
“More concerningly, in rushing this legislation through, the Government has failed to address the issues of LGBTIAQ+ children and teachers in schools, which in 2018 was a first-order urgent issue. This crucially important matter has been deferred until after this legislation has been passed, leaving LGBTIAQ+ students and teachers at risk.”
“It is our view that existing privileges to religious organisations should be removed rather than expanded.”
for more information about Equal Voices, see https://equalvoices.org.au
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.