When asked how she would respond if a family asked her to register their child who had changed from man to woman, she said, âI say yesâ. Likewise, female students who switch to male students are welcome to stay at the school.
“There is no policy that says you are no longer welcome here,” she said. “
Far from reflecting the position of the broader faith community, school principals’ views draw on a wide range of opinions on the usefulness of the exceptions, including fierce opposition to their removal from powerful faith groups, including Christian Schools Australia and the Australian Christian Lobby.
A number of moderate Liberal MPs, including Dave Sharma and Katie Allen, are pushing for an expedited repeal of s38 (3), viewing it as a critical step before further scrutiny of the religious discrimination law. Attorney General Michaelia Cash appeared to forego an agreement with moderates this week that would address this issue prior to any vote on the bill, and instead re-committed to a review process by the Australian Legislative Reform Commission, which would provide further safeguards for LGBTQI students up to 12 months after the bill was passed.
Professor Patrick Parkinson, dean of law at the University of Queensland and head of the Freedom for Faith think tank, said the legislation could be revised, but simply lifting the s38 (3) exception is not the right solution to a complex problem that is would expose schools of faith “to the problems caused by gender identity regulations”.
“The sections of legislation that deal with gender identity discrimination are vague and poorly worded,” said Professor Parkinson.
âNobody has thought about the obligations the law places on schools when a teenage boy in trouble decides he or she is ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’. Does the school have to accept the adolescent’s self-disclosure? What about the parents’ views? For example, what does it mean for school uniform policy if a teenage girl claims she is ‘non-binary’? “
Christian Schools Australia Policy Director Mark Spencer said the schools wanted to be able to have pastoral conversations with students about their sexuality and gender identity “without the threat of legal proceedings”.
“It is the pastoral care that reflects our clearly stated values ââand it is the pastoral care that might tell young people that we obviously disagree with this behavior and we think this is not the best for you,” said Mr Spencer.
In some cases, this behavior “could lead to disciplinary consequences if it actively undermines the ethos of the school,” he said.
Victoria Islamic Council President Adel Salman said lifting the exemptions for students had not been specifically discussed in the Islamic school sector and said it was a “non-issue”.
âI am not aware of any situation in Australia where an Islamic school has ever discriminated against a trans student or a homosexual student. It has never happened before, âsaid Mr Salman.
He said all students have been taught the basic values ââof Islam, including the prohibition of homosexuality, and are not allowed to speak out against these values ââwithin the school.
“We cannot have Islamic schools that allow students to openly call for homosexuality … or if students start campaigning for the legality of same-sex marriage when it is completely contrary to religion,” he said. âIf students are homosexual themselves and don’t openly promote it or practice it within the school, then the school will likely just understand that. It’s a really fine balancing act. “