A group of 47 legal and LGBTI rights organisations across Australia has called on the federal government to remove discrimination exemptions for LGBTI students and teachers working in non-government schools.
The letter, obtained by BuzzFeed News, is expected to be released later this morning and is signed by a wide variety of legal and LGBTI groups, including Australian Marriage Equality, Just.Equal, AIDS Council of NSW, Human Rights Law Centre, Rainbow Families Victoria and Amnesty International.
The signatories to the letter:
The letter calls on the government to remove existing exemptions in anti-discrimination law.
"Kids in schools should be focused on classes, homework and building friendships, not living in fear of mistreatment because of who they are or their families are," the groups state in the letter. "Children have been asked to leave their school because they have come out, or because of their parents being part of LGBTI communities.
"Teachers should be focusing on educating their students, not worrying about losing their job. No employee should face discrimination when the reason has nothing to do with their job."
The review on religious freedom, led by former Liberal minister and the current mayor of Hornsby, Philip Ruddock, was announced last year while the parliament debated whether to legalise same-sex marriage. The government has been sitting on the report since May.
Recommendations from the report began leaking to media last week, causing a lot of headaches for the Coalition government ahead of the by-election in Wentworth this Saturday.
Initial reports that the review called for Commonwealth legislation to enshrine the rights of religious schools to kick out LGBTI students led to prime minister Scott Morrison being questioned for days on the matter.
Morrison repeatedly said that it was currently the law, at least federally, and had been for years.
This fact appeared to have been missed by a lot of people, and ultimately the religious freedom report prepared for conservatives who are sore about the loss over marriage equality could lead to the winding back of existing religious exemptions.
Both the government and Labor are now promising to remove that exemption in anti-discrimination law, with Labor going further and promising to remove controversial exemptions that allow religious schools to fire teachers for being gay.
The government has not yet signalled whether it will also agree to remove those exemptions. Some within the Coalition have argued those existing exemptions need to be retained in order for religious schools to be able to teach to their values.
Religious leaders including the Anglican archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies have argued that the exemptions should remain because "church schools should not be forced to play by secular rules".
"Anglican schools, if they are going to remain Anglican, must be able to employ staff who support the Christian values of the school," he said in a speech this week.
The letter from the LGBTI groups states that Australia has moved on from a time when it was considered acceptable to treat people unfairly because of who they are or love.
"All children should be accepted for who they are at school. Every person should be able to do their job without having to hide who they are. Every school should be inclusive of diverse families in the school community," the letter said.
"We call on all political leaders and governments across Australia to take action now by amending outdated anti-discrimination laws to make sure they treat LGBTI people with fairness and equality."
The groups have also called for laws to stop LGBTI people from being turned away from religious organisations working in family violence, disability, adoption, housing and other essential services.
Anna Brown, director of legal advocacy for Human Rights Law Centre said in a statement that the origin of the Ruddock review was the "deeply flawed idea" that equality for LGBTI people posed a threat to religious freedom.
"We reject this utterly, and remain concerned that conservative religious forces within the Coalition will be extracting their 'price' for marriage equality," she said. "There should be no price paid for equality."