Should Religion Be Exempt From Anti-Discrimination Laws?

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Greens senator Robert Simms wants to remove religious exemptions from the Sex Discrimination Act. He says the provisions in the law allow for religious organisations to discriminate against staff or clients who are from sexual minorities. To debate the question, we talked to Senator Simms and Terry Tobin, a leading Queens Counsel and former chancellor of Notre Dame University.

Listen to the debate on the Religion and Ethics Report. 

Greens Promise To End Religious Exemptions To Sex Discrimination Act

Paul Karp, The Guardian, 17 May 2016 

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The Greens have promised to remove religious exemptions to federal anti-discrimination law and increase funding to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.

The promises are contained in broad-ranging Greens policy for LGBTI rights to be released on Tuesday by their LGBTI equality spokesman, Robert Simms, and gender identity spokeswoman, Janet Rice.

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It’s Time To Strengthen Our Anti-Discrimination Laws

This week we marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It’s an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come on the road to equality for LGBTI people, but also to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.

Here in Australia we have much to be proud of. Community attitudes have changed considerably and LGBTI people are more visible than ever before. Yet despite this, the parliament continues to lag behind when it comes to eliminating discrimination under the law. Discrimination in the Marriage Act has been a hot-button political issue for many years in Australia. It is now no longer a matter of ‘if’ we will see marriage equality but ‘when.’ And hopefully we will get there without Turnbull’s $160 million plebiscite!

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Michelle Grattan talks to Robert Simms about the evolution of The Greens

The future of senator Robert Simms, one of the freshest faces in the Greens team, may hang on whether he is first or second on his party’s ticket. In his home state of South Australia, where the Nick Xenophon Team looks to be strong, the Greens face a particularly tough battle. But Simms tells Michelle Grattan he thinks the Greens have a chance of retaining their two seats. Listen to the interview here. 

 

More Action Needed To Combat Homophobia In Schools And In Parliament

I was about 10 when I was first called a “fag” and a “poof”. At that time I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t a compliment. The names had a new sting when I realised that I was gay and even though I was in the closet for my teenage years, it seemed there was no fooling the kids in the school yard. The idea of coming out and being open about my sexuality filled me with dread.

There’s no doubt that Australia has changed a lot since I was at school. There are far more gay people in public life and popular culture and differences in sexuality are discussed much more openly. That’s a wonderful thing. But unfortunately homophobia is still alive and well in the school yard and, as demonstrated last week, in parliament.

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Greens Senator Robert Simms Slams Tony Abbott For Speech To Anti-Gay Hate Group

Alistair Kitchen, Star Observer, February 3, 2016 

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SOUTH Australian Greens Senator Robert Simms yesterday called out former Prime Minister Tony Abbott for speaking to US anti-gay group the Alliance Defending Freedom.

In a speech to the Senate last night, the Greens’ spokesperson for marriage equality called Abbott’s speech “a brazen slap in the face to LGBTI Australians and their loved ones”.

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A Plebiscite On Gay Marriage Would Tell Us What We Already Know

When Malcolm Turnbull seized the Prime Ministership from Tony Abbott two months ago, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. At last, we might have something that looks a bit more like a 21st century government, rather than the Jurassic Park we had come to expect during the Abbott era.

 One issue that came to represent the Abbott government’s archaic world view was marriage equality. Most Australians looked on in disbelief as the Prime Minister concocted one elaborate excuse after another to prevent progress, eventually settling on a plebiscite as a last-ditch attempt to head off a free vote in the parliament.

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Australia’s Civic Life Will Suffer If Major Parties Turn Universities Into Degree Factories

Australia’s universities are vital to our nation’s future. This is not only because they are fundamental to the growth of our economy but because they are an essential public good. Universities are more than just degree factories; they provide pathways for citizens to realise their dreams and to reach their potential. They provide opportunities to exchange ideas, reflect on our world and find solutions. They are vital to the civic life of our country.

That’s why the economic rationalist approach of Labor and the Liberal party is so damaging. By casting students simply as consumers who pay for a product (education) in order to secure a job, Australia is diminishing the inherent value of education. Education is not merely a means to an end, but rather an end in itself.

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This New Senator Had a Message For Australia’s LGBTI Kids In His Maiden Speech

Lane Saintly, Buzzfeed News, October 14, 2015 

“I stand here today as an out and proud gay man. But it certainly wasn’t always so,” Simms told the chamber.

“I remember I was around 12 when I realised I was gay, I was in my final year at primary school. It was a secret I carried for a long time – indeed I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my early twenties.”

A former councillor for the city of Adelaide and Greens political staffer, Simms replaced South Australian Greens senator Penny Wright. He holds the portfolios for higher education, LGBTI issues and water.

Simms joins three other openly LGB members of the Australian parliament, including Labor senator Penny Wong, Liberal senator Dean Smith and Greens senator Janet Rice.

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New Senator Robert Simms Talks Of Struggle To Come Out

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Judith Ireland, 13 October 2015, Sydney Morning Herald

When Robert Simms was growing up in Adelaide, there was one thing the self-confessed “nerd” who loved debating and student politics would never have considered talking about in a speech, let alone his first speech in the Senate.

While Senator Simms had a happy childhood, there were times when he did not feel as though he quite fitted in.

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