Public discussions of religion and homosexuality provoke intense moral and political anxieties. In fact, “gays v God” is a popular theme that seeps into TV shows, novels, and even legislation. Such a dichotomy, however, is unhelpful. Presenting faith and (homo)sexuality as sparring partners in some ill-defined boxing match erases the fact that the two are often intimately woven together.
We only need to look to the debates surrounding anti-discrimination laws and freedom of religion to observe just how polarised the two have become.
Recently, the federal government deferred its commitment to harmonise anti-discrimination laws. Instead, it opted to pass amendments to the sex discrimination act 1984 to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from discrimination. This legislation aims to complement existing state and territory protections by prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI people accessing federal services in areas like aged care, health care, education and accommodation. The legislation is now awaiting the consideration of the Senate.
While this is a landmark step, the inclusion of faith-based exceptions undercut much of the legislation’s promise. These exemptions operate automatically at the whim of individual religious organisations.