Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and his government decided that the best time to release an anti-LGBT+ religious discrimination bill was while the country burns in a bushfire crisis.
According to The Guardian, as of yesterday (December 10) in New South Wales alone nine major fires are currently burning at watch and act level, and one at emergency level.
Sydney is currently smothered by smoke at levels 11 times higher than “hazardous”. The extreme amount of smoke is setting off fire alarms all over the city, causing evacuations of schools and public buildings.
Beaches are turned black with ash, more than 2,000 buildings have been destroyed and seven people have been killed. Prime Minister Morrison has generously offered “thoughts and prayers”.
Aside from thinking and praying, Morrison has also found the time to release a draft of the “Religious Discrimination Bill 2019”.
Just like similar proposed legislation in America, while the bill purports to protect religious freedom, many believe it will simply make discrimination against LGBT+ people legal.
The draft bill is fairly vague states that while health professionals, including psychologists and pharmacists, cannot refuse some procedures, they can refuse others. This could lead to services refusing to provide abortions, birth control or hormone therapy based on religious beliefs.
Religious bodies, including religious charities, would also be able to discriminate based on their beliefs when hiring staff.
Or, as one person put it on Twitter: “‘Religious discrimination bill’ is a such a nice way to say ‘bill to stop those gays and women from getting too uppity’, or ‘Christians should be able to discriminate against others bill’ (because we all know this bill isn’t for all religions).”
Equality Australia made a submission on the exposure drafts of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019, in which it wrote: “Equality Australia supports fair, balanced protections against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and activity, but not laws granting some a licence to discriminate against others.
“Unfortunately, the Religious Freedom Bills go too far in privileging the religious views of some over the fundamental rights of others, including LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, women, unmarried and divorced people, and people of minority faiths or with no religious belief.”
It added: “It is an anathema to public health if your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other health professional could simply refuse to treat you because they disagreed with who you were or the kind of treatment you needed.”
Morrison is planning to introduce the legislation to parliament early next year, and public comment on the bill is open until January 21 2020.