It doesn’t take much tugging for everything to unravel when it comes to a story about LGBTI people in The Australian.

Today’s effort, the latest in the long line in the national broadsheet’s long-running obsession with complaining about any preferential treatment being given to LGBTI people declared the following:

“Religious charities face exclusion from providing post-disaster relief and recovery services, under a radical push to embed gender theory into emergency management policies across the country.”

This all comes out of a guidelines (not enforced) document prepared for women’s health organisations and Monash University with the support of the Australian government and released in August with little fanfare.

The whole story is based on two sentences in the 13-page guide that state that when governments are considering outsourcing emergency management, they should be aware that faith-based organisations are exempt from anti-discrimination law, particularly when it comes to LGBTI people. That’s all. No official government policy, no ban. Just an awareness that some religious organisations could discriminate against LGBTI people.

Go to the Australian Christian Lobby for an outrage comment, and the Oz has its story. Keep in mind that the ACL is strongly opposed to the removal of exemptions for religious organisations (including those taking taxpayer money) and had called for the suspension of anti-discrimination law during the plebiscite.

Neglected to be mentioned by The Australian is that the guide was peer reviewed and found to have legitimacy in the need for LGBTI people be considered in disaster planning. The review states:

“Disaster impacts are heightened for LGBTI people, as the destruction of home is the destruction of the safe place away from judgement. The usual procedures to secure residences and rehouse those affected by disaster are accompanied by additional privacy concerns and risk or experience of discrimination.

“The loss of community and infrastructure places a much heavier burden on people who may be marginalised and excluded in the everyday. The space of evacuation centres, for example, may be experienced as a space of risk by same-sex couples who fear homophobic responses from personnel or other evacuees.”

The other problem, the review noted was that religious extremist groups tend to blame natural disasters on gay people “as punishment from God” and cite research about the 2011 Queensland floods, during which a research participant had been told that gay people had brought the disaster upon the town:

“Such religious-based perspectives undermine the rights of LGBTI people to equitable access to disaster, recovery and reconstruction assistance, particularly as state governments may — and have – outsourced these services to faith-based Christian organisations that have some exemptions from anti-discrimination protections under Commonwealth and State laws.”

But it’s too offensive to even consider that, according to The Australian.  — Josh Taylor

Peter Fray

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