Media Release

Patten’s anti-discrimination bill to put limits on free speech, warns the ACL

The Australian Christian Lobby opposes a plan by Victorian upper house MP Fiona Patten to extend the reach of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Bill to gender identity and sexual orientation.

ACL chief political officer, Dan Flynn, said the Reason Party MP’s proposal was unwieldly, and its implementation would open a Pandora’s box for complaints.

The bill, slated for debate in parliament next week, will provide ‘protection’ for people vilified on new grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. Interestingly, disability is also included in this list.

“Under the guise of protecting women and transgender persons from trolling, her proposed legislation targets those feminists who oppose the broadening of the definition of woman, from a biological woman to anyone who identifies as a woman. It also targets those whose religious convictions adhere to the scientific fact that there are two sexes – male and female – rather than an infinite spectrum of genders.” Mr Flynn said.

“Instead of providing protection to women and religion, Ms Patten’s proposal turns religious tolerance, proposed in the original legislation, against religion,” he said.

“There has already been one landmark case under the existing legislation. A case against Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, of ‘racial vilification’ was brought to VCAT by The Islamic Council of Victoria. The case was heard for 40 days in the VCAT tribunal, over a period of two years. It was appealed to the Supreme Court which overturned the VCAT ruling and was finally resolved through mediation.

The breadth of the scope of Ms Patten’s proposed legislation will ensure this happens again, potentially in relation to misgendering a trans person.

“Unfortunately, strong penalties will apply for those caught up by this new law, with Ms Patten proposing an extraordinary penalty of up to six months in jail.”

“The Australian Christian Lobby calls on the Victorian Government to oppose this badly crafted bill.”

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