Uniting at Midsumma Pride March
Uniting at Midsumma Pride March

Uniting Vic.Tas has congratulated the Victorian government on its $10 million funding boost for the state’s Pride Centre, announced over the weekend, but warns the draft Religious Discrimination Bill threatens to undermine the rights of all LGBTIQ+ people.

The state government pledge coincided with Midsumma Festival’s 25th annual Pride March, in which more than 80 staff, consumers and supporters from Uniting joined thousands of others in a celebration of love and diversity.

Uniting CEO, Bronwyn Pike, said the spectacular act of unity on display was testament to the strength of Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community.

“Being part of Midsumma is one way for us to show that commitment means something tangible to us. Being there is saying to our LGBTIQ+ colleagues and consumers – this is a safe space for you, said Ms Pike.
The event came at a pivotal time for LGBTIQ+ rights – the second round of consultation on the religious freedom bills closed on Friday. The Uniting Church, of which Uniting Vic.Tas is the community services organisation, provided a submission.
“I urge the Federal Government to carefully consider the rights of LGBTIQ+ people as it debates the current draft Religious Discrimination Bill,” said Ms Pike.

“As part of the Uniting Church, we are committed to the concept of universal human rights. There are a number of faith-based organisations like ours that are concerned about the potential impact of this bill as it stands.

“Everyone has the right to freedom from discrimination, but not at the expense of existing protections. In drafting this bill, we need to think carefully about how it will affect all communities.

“As the President of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church said recently, Christians in Australia are not persecuted. In Australia, churches aren’t victims. To cultivate some kind of victim status is disingenuous.”

One of the Clauses Uniting believes will have a negative impact on LGBTIQ+ people is Clause 42 in the draft, which states that a statement of belief does not constitute discrimination for the purposes of any anti-discrimination law.

“Clause 42 legitimises virtually any opinion however hurtful or harmful, as long as a case can be made that it is a statement of belief. Statements that would otherwise be considered discrimination could be couched in faith and allowed to stand. This concerns us greatly.

“Organisations like ours and events like Midsumma Pride show that it is possible to be true to the religious faith on which our work is founded, and at the same time respect and value the diversity of our workforce, volunteers and consumers. We were far from the only faith-based organisation present in the march this weekend”

To read the Uniting Church submission, including detail on which clauses will infringe on the rights of the LGTIQ+ community in Australia, see here: https://assembly.uca.org.au/news/item/3122-balance-still-not-right-on-religious-freedoms