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Activists hurl abuse at Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at NSW Parliament

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Quay-Quay Quade interrupts Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP as he gives evidence before the inquiry on 1 May. Image: NSW Parliament webcast screenshot

Activists have attempted to derail the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the proposed Equality Legislation Amendment (LGBTIQA+) Bill, hurling abuse at Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP as he delivered his opening statement before the committee.

With protestors kept largely outside, several activists entered the public gallery on 1 May and remained silent, before launching into a tirade of profanity-laden abuse directed at the archbishop.

Upon the ejection of the protestors, Committee Chair Hon. Clayton Barr MP offered the archbishop the opportunity to restart his remarks, however the archbishop, seemingly unfazed, declined the offer and resumed his comments from the point prior to the disruption.

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Speaking of the interruption later, Archbishop Fisher said he was thankful to the NSW parliamentary staff for their assistance and quickly ensuring the hearing continued.

“The parliamentary staff acted professionally and acted quickly to calmly diffuse the situation.

“These hearings allow the committee to ask questions of some of those who made submissions to the inquiry so they can better understand the views put forward, and many supporters of the bill had the opportunity to speak without interruption,” Archbishop Fisher said.

Dr Deirdre Little and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP appearing at the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the ‘Equality bill’. Photo: NSW Parliament

“We must be able to listen to each other, to give others the space to speak, even dialogue with those with whom we might disagree.”

In his opening submission speaking on behalf of more than 20 Catholic and Orthodox bishops, Archbishop Fisher said while the church does sympathise with all efforts to discourage or forbid unjust discrimination against LGBT people, there is concern surrounding anti-religious undercurrent in the proposed bill.

“The bill proposes to remove the few existing protections for religious institutions from anti-discrimination lawfare, including schools, healthcare, aged care, welfare and pastoral services, while offering no protections at all for individuals of faith,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“As the committee would be aware, NSW and South Australia are the only two states where it remains perfectly legal to discriminate against a person on the basis of religious belief or activity.

“In proposing to remove the only religious protections, the bill would only enlarge the scope for discrimination against believers.”

Also appearing before the committee, Dr Deirdre Little representing the Catholic Women’s League Australia said that while the organisation acknowledges the sincerity of the bill, it has multiple and serious reservations and cannot support it.

“We are much more than the parts of our nature now being drawn by societal definitions,” she said.

As an obstetrician, Dr Little also expressed concern over the long-term impact to children’s development if they would be allowed access to hormonal treatments.

“Decisions regarding gender transition, social transition and pharmaceutical transition are major decisions, they can usher in lifelong health and social consequences, lifelong medicalisation, and pharmaceutical dependency. As such, these decisions require a higher level of capacity and competency.”

Despite the faith-based opposition to the bill, Archbishop Fisher echoed Dr Little’s call for prudence in allowing young people access to life altering medication.

“There’s no single right age where someone is competent to make all the decisions for their life.

“We normally use 18 in this state for voting, marrying, for all sorts of purposes.

“We assume by that age you’re mature enough to make such life altering decisions. Why we would say in respect to this area, suddenly you are competent at age 16 or 17, that parents don’t need to be involved is very strange,” Archbishop Fisher said.

The committee report will be delivered Monday, 3 June 2024.

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