LGBT Groups Call for a Voice to Parliament

Sydney’s LGBT community is demanding Premier Chris Minns keeps his promise to set up a voice-like advisory council for gay and trans people, after he set up a similar body for religious leaders who have promised to use it to push Labor on policy priorities. The state government recently announced the establishment of a “milestone” NSW Faith Affairs Council to advise ministers on policy that could affect religious communities, such as – one faith leader suggested – changes to voluntarily-assisted dying or conversion practices. LGBT groups, although welcoming the move to give religious figures a forum, want the government to ensure a similar olive branch will be extended to them. The council, in the process of being filled with 16 religious’ leaders from across the state’s denominations, would provide counsel only to policy that could affect it, and government is not obliged to consult it on every matter. Mr Kassisieh also called for the government to go a step further and honour an election commitment to establish an LGBT advisory council, and a whole-of-government LGBT inclusion strategy.

Government leader in the Legislative Council Penny Sharpe said Labor was committed to a similar board, but it was too early to confirm its details. “The government remains committed to establishing an LGBT advisory council and we will be working closely with community advocates from across our state as we work to deliver it,” she said. State MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, who is homosexual, also applauded the initiative, as he said he did for the government’s engagement with LGBT organisations. “I really welcome the establishment of the faith council, just as I welcome the direct engagement the government is doing with LGBT organisations,” he said. Mr. Greenwich supported the passing of the Religious Vilification Bill, which made it unlawful to “incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person because of their religious belief, affiliation or activity”. “Working together we are able to tackle the discrimination we all face, and work towards sustainable policy outcomes,” he said.

The MP introduced a bill in August to reform conversion practices in the state. It will return to parliament later this year. It is that type of policy Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney engagement director Monica Doumit previously said she suspected the council would be keen to be heard on or provide feedback to. Multiculturalism Minister Steve Kamper, to whom the council would report, said it was one example, of many, in which the government was listening. “The council is about listening to our multi-faith community, understanding their point of view and ensuring they are considered when decisions are made,” he said. “Our responsibility is to the people of NSW, and the majority of people in NSW practice a faith, so it is important we work to understand the challenges multi-faith communities face.” However, the move wasn’t without criticism. NSW Liberal Democrat MP John Ruddick described it as a “religious voice to parliament”. “We established the separation of church and state centuries ago; the government should be indifferent to religion and let citizens express their faith as they see fit,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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