Several hundred protestors have called for the shelved Religious Discrimination Bill to be permanently removed from the parliament table. 

The draft legislation, while being passed in the House of Representatives during the early hours of Wednesday morning,  was not debated on Thursday after dissenting Coalition MPS caused Scott Morrison to push back debate – leaving the bill in an unknown state.

Addressing the rally at Sydney’s Town Hall on Saturday, Sydney Girls High school student Sumaya (last name withheld), said: “The Religious Discrimination Bill is only opening the doors to bigotry. The reports of homophobia in religious schools is a commonplace hushed up behind chapel doors and internalised by students.”

In an interview with Central News she added: “We need to have it shelved for the right reasons: to protect gay kids, to protect trans kids, to protect the queer population.”

Protestors of all ages rallied together in the rain with rainbow flags and colourful placards including: ‘Take my gender out of your agenda’ and ‘Pray the hate away’. 

 

Protestors marching through Pitt Street City Mall with playcards writng, 'No right to discriminate' and 'We love our trans kids'

Protestors marching through Pitt Street Mall with placards on Saturday: ‘No right to discriminate’ and ‘We love our trans kids’.

 

From the 78ers who advocated for gay rights in 1978, to children and adults, Sydney’s streets echoed their chants ‘No right to discriminate’ and ‘Stand up fight back’.

 

Three people holding a sign writing '1978 The First Mardi Gras Still Out And Proud' with a large protesting crowd behind.

Activists for gay rights since 1978 marched in Sydney’s streets in opposition of the bill and demanded its removal.

 

April Holcombe, co-convenor of Community Action for Rainbow Rights and main organiser of the protest, said the message to parliament is “not to mess” with LGBTQI+ rights.

“We’re a fierce; defiant community [and] we’re backed by the majority of the population,” she said.

“When we march out onto the streets we’re much more powerful than the bigots of parliament.”  

Protesting for the elimination of the bill with her two children, Allison (surname withheld), said: “There is no reason why religion should trump all.” 

Che Baine, another protestor, said he attended the protest to protect trans kids who are being used as a political weapon during the parliamentary debate and hoped the march would tell the government to “kill the bill, scrap it”.  

 

While the LGBTQI+ community has largely protested the bill, some see it as filling in the gap of Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

Bilal Rauf, industrial relations barrister and National Imams Council spokesman told Central News: “Currently, at a federal level, there is extensive discrimination laws and they protect various attributes; gender, age, race, carer responsibility, sexual preference, so forth. The one attribute that isn’t picked up in any of those federal laws is religious identity.

“If they discriminate against you because of your religious identity there is nothing you can do under federal law that can deal with that.”

Bilal added “The core aspect of the bill is critical, it is much needed” and it “gives protections to religious identity in circumstances where presently there is none”. 

The Religious Discrimination Bill is widely contentious. LGBTQI+ fear the loss of their rights whilst faith groups see law-abiding protection of their religious identity. 

Holcombe ended the rally by reminding protestors the fight to remove the bill from parliament is not over. 

“We’ve got to keep fighting, we are not going to wait for some election, we’re not going to wait for some saviour politician, we are not going wait for some amendments – were going to kill this bill,” she said.