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Gay rights under threat

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As Indiana comes to grips with new laws that “create a road map” for business to discriminate against people based on their sexuality, Victoria is dealing with its own.

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On Thursday last week the Indiana state government signed into law the right of businesses to refuse service based on religious grounds.

United States broadcaster ABC News, citing supporters, said the laws stop the government from “compelling” businesses to compromise their religious values, say in the case of a photographer being asked to shoot a same-sex wedding if they found it objectionable due to religious values.

It’s a topic ripe for a backlash, which happened under the #boycottindiana hashtag on Twitter.

But it’s old news in Australia, where all states except Queensland allow religious bodies like schools and churches to discriminate against hiring staff with characteristics opposed to the beliefs of the organisation, Christian Schools Australia says.

“The proper separation of church and state is threatened when issues of employment in faith based schools is moved to an industrial jurisdiction, rather than treated as an exemption to the religious discrimination legislation,” Stephen O’Doherty wrote in a blog post in June 2014.

The Andrews Victorian government has pledged to change an amendment to the Equal Opportunities Act which allows religious bodies like schools or churches to “engage staff who have the same values as the organisation,” the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commision website states.

The amendment was criticised as  staff must comply with the law as set out by the religious body’s dogma, it has been seen as targeting LGBTI workers, divorcees, single parents and women who have had an abortion for instance.

The amendment was passed in 2011 under the Napthine Liberal government and the incoming Andrews Labor government has pledged to change it.

Exemptions are allowed to the Victorian Equal Opportunities Act which promote equal opportunity.

For instance an exemption was granted to allow Melbourne gay bar the Peel Hotel to control entry because it “would adversely affect the safety or comfort of the venue for its homosexual male patrons, or the nature of that venue as a venue primarily for homosexual male patrons”.

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