The Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill 2023 introduced by Independent MP Alex Greenwich is due to be debated next month and voted on in March. The bill makes wide-ranging changes to 20 pieces of NSW legislation that will undermine religious freedom and entrench a radical gender ideology in NSW.

Undermining religious freedom

The bill hollows out, or entirely removes, existing provisions in the Anti-Discrimination Act that are designed to allow faith-based institutions to maintain their faith-based character. The bill also removes protections for faith-based schools and other religious institutions.

This will prevent faith-based institutions from keeping their faith identity by employing staff who uphold the faith, or by operating according to their beliefs. It will force religious institutions to act like secular institutions. The bill will also open faith-based institutions to constant and costly complaints of discrimination that will need to be defended and will allow judges to decide whether religious beliefs are “reasonable”.

Bypassing the parent-child relationship

The bill permits a child under 16 to consent to medical treatment, against the will of their parents, so long as a doctor says that “the child is capable of understanding the nature, consequences and risks of the treatment and the treatment is in the best interests of the child’s health and wellbeing”.

It also deems all young people 16 or over to be competent to make medical decisions for themselves (including life-altering procedures) as if they were an adult. 

This drives a wedge between parents and their children and empowers a minority of activist medical practitioners to push their ideology and override parents. It would also allow one parent to consent to medical treatment, even if the other parent strongly objects. This has the potential for the medical treatment of children to be used as leverage in family disputes.

Sex self-ID

The bill allows people from 16 years of age to change their sex on their birth certificate whenever they want, regardless of biology or surgery. This places women-only spaces such as refuges, schools, prisons and places of worship at risk because they will be forced to treat people according to their newly declared sex.

Promoting prostitution

The bill protects sex work under anti-discrimination law, making it equivalent to protected attributes such as race and disability. No other form of employment is privileged in such a way. The bill also removes existing limits on prostitution – including laws that prevent coercing a woman into prostitution, public acts of prostitution and soliciting prostitution outside a school or place of worship.

Commercial surrogacy

The bill allows and assists the commercialisation of surrogacy, including paying disadvantaged women in third world countries to bear a child who is then taken from them and brought to Australia.

Why has this bill been prioritised?

At 1.30am on November 30, 2023, the Government voted to prevent this bill from expiring, give it priority for debate in the very first week of Parliament, and guarantee a vote on March 14, 2024. A bill that was expected to lapse is now going to be forced to a vote within weeks. Given the radical nature of this bill, it is alarming that it is being rushed through without any time for proper community consultation.

Why the bill needs to be rejected in full

Mr Greenwich’s bill is extreme and prioritises the interests of one group over all other parts of society. A more balanced approach needs to be taken, with wide consultation. The legislation is 50 pages long and makes more than 80 changes to 20 different pieces of legislation. This includes 52 amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act – even though the Act has been referred to the NSW Law Reform Commission.

There is no safe way of splitting this bill, or passing parts of it, without risking significant unintended consequences, because the legislation is complicated and interlinked. The different issues are interwoven, with consequential amendments to one section dependent on others.

What can you do?

Christians need to act immediately to make our opposition to this bill known. We need to contact our local State members. Most politicians have little idea about the contents – let alone the consequences – of this bill. It is important they hear our concerns before the bill’s scheduled voting day on March 14. Freedom For Faith has created the website that will assist you to call, write or meet with your local MP. 

The Rt Rev Michael Stead is Bishop of South Sydney and chairman of Freedom for Faith.