New LGBTQI watchdog sets sights on religious freedom in schools bill

Today marks the one year anniversary of when Australia’s historic marriage equality laws were given royal assent by the Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

But 12 months on, leading human rights lawyer Anna Brown says the fight for a fair go is far from over.

“We know that discrimination didn’t end when we achieved marriage equality, she said.

Fight for fair go far from over: Anna Brown.

“We know that there are LGBTIQ people who aren’t safe at work, they are not safe to be out and they are not safe at school.”

The education system is firmly in focus with a deadlocked federal parliament this week failing to pass laws that would have stopped gay students being expelled by religious schools.

The coalitionĀ and Labor were unable to agree on details of the legislation.

According to Anna Brown, some of the proposed amendments would have actually entrenched discrimination against LGBTIQ students.

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Labor's Penny Wong remonstrates Centre Alliance Senators Rex Patrick and Sterling Griff.

“Religious discrimination is the number one issue that supporters of equality want us to campaign on,” she said.

“We will be taking a campaign to remove discrimination in schools to the highest levels of government.”

Ms Brown has just been appointed chief executive of Equality Australia – a new watchdog formed to protect the vulnerable from discrimination.

One of the group’s key aims will be to shine a spotlight on the patchwork of laws affecting LGBTIQ communities across Australia, which can vary markedly from state-to-state.

Finn Stannard comes out as gay at his school assembly.

Transgender rights advocate Aram Hosie is calling for uniform legislation.

“Based on where you happen to live or where you happen to have had your birth registered you may have more or less protections and rights,” he said.

Anna Brown, right, has been appointed as chief executive of Equality Australia.

Anna Brown, right, has been appointed as chief executive of Equality Australia.

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“If we think about Australia being a country of a fair go we want everyone to have these same protections, these same opportunities regardless of where they live.”

Intersex campaigner Elise Nyhuis says discrimination can also occur regardless of age, pointing to gender allocation medical procedures she was subjected to as a child.

“I won’t go into detail now but I was never given consent about what my body would be,” she said.

“What my body would be able to do.”

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