Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has claimed that LGBTQ+ students have never been expelled from a religious school due to their sexuality.
Morrison’s statement comes as he said he would prioritise passing the Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s religious belief, if re-elected in the country’s general election on 21 May.
According to ABC News, the government’s initial plan in November last year was to alter the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) alongside passing the controversial RDB in order to protect LGBTQ+ students from being expelled due to their sexual orientation.
On Sunday (8 May), Scott Morrison told reporters in Melbourne that the RDB will be pushed through if he is re-elected, and that changes to protect LGBTQ+ students would be made “sequentially”, though he did not say how long after.
Morrison said it had “always been” the government’s position to pass the religious bill first and that there was “no new position here”.
Morrison – who voted against same-sex marriage equality, and has backed calls to ban trans women from female sports – added that there is “no evidence” LGBTQ+ pupils would be expelled for their sexuality due to the religious bill.
He told reporters: “We’ve been having this conversation for about the last four years, and on each occasion, it has been presented that apparently students are being expelled… there is no evidence of that at all, there’s none.
“The point is it doesn’t happen… religious schools themselves don’t wish to do that.”
Liberal Party MP Bridget Archer has previously said that she worries the RDB could “risk lives” and harm children by treating them as “other”.
“After so much progress, how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others?” Archer told Parliament in February.
“I fear it may risk lives.”
Anna Brown, CEO of the LGBT+ rights group Equality Australia, previously told Al Jazeera: “What constitutes discrimination today, will be lawful tomorrow, allowing people to say harmful, insulting and demeaning things.
“Things like a medical worker telling a person living with HIV that AIDS is a punishment from God, or a person living with disability that their disability is caused by the devil.”