Ds Scholarship

Coalition to push for Senate inquiry

In a significant blow to the government, five Liberals crossed the floor just before 5am to vote with Labor and crossbenchers in support of independent MP Rebekah Sharkie’s amendment to abolish the right of religious to discriminate against gay and transgender students.

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The two pieces of legislation – the bill to create a new Religious Discrimination Act and the separate amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act – were voted on one after the other, after the push for laws to protect the rights of faith communities and churches was accompanied by a counter push to strength protections for LGBTQI students.

The five Liberals rebelled to repeal section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act that allows religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy. That vote was carried by a margin of 65 to 57 votes in what a Labor source described as a “crushing win”.

In a move Prime Minister Scott Morrison had hoped would appease his moderate backbenchers, the government had sought a much narrower amendment to the act that would have prohibited religious schools from expelling students because they are gay. But it left schools with a broader right to discriminate against gay students in other ways, and did not protect transgender students at all.

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