The Tasmanian Government has benched anti-discrimination legislation that would have had serious implications on religious freedom.

Proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1988 were due to be debated in the Upper House on Wednesday but ACL understands the state government decided not to vote on the legislation when it realised it didn’t have the numbers for the legislation to pass.

The legislation would have greatly expanded the number of grounds where conduct which “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules” is prohibited. It would include race, age, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, gender, marital status, relationship status, pregnancy, breastfeeding, parental status, family responsibilities, disability, industrial activity, political belief or affiliation, political activity, religious belief or affiliation, religious activity, irrelevant criminal record, irrelevant medical record, and association with a person who has or is believed to have any of these attributes”.

A central point of contention for the government was that a majority of members supported faith-based schools receiving exceptions to anti-discrimination laws when enrolling students.

ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said in a media release  this week that such changes would threaten free speech and open dialogue, and increase unnecessary litigation. He says Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

Meanwhile, ACL understands proposed changes to Tasmania’s adoption laws will be passed which will allow those registered with a significant relationship, including unmarried and same-sex couples, to adopt an unknown child.

This is a disappointing outcome and it seems previous laws regarding surrogacy and known adoptions for same-sex couples had set a precedent for members to also vote for this legislation.