A WIMMERA group is concerned new proposed legislation would discriminate against transgender and gender-diverse people seeking medical care.
It comes as public submissions to the federal government's draft Religious Discrimination Bill come to a close on October 2.
The proposed bill seeks to protect people on the basis of their religious belief or activity in situations including employment, land sales, providing services and club membership.
The Wimmera Pride Project is a Horsham-based support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer identifying people.
A spokesman said the group was concerned the bill contained exemptions allowing health professionals to refuse treatment on the basis of the professional's religious beliefs.
"It can already be difficult for LGBTIQ+ individuals to get the treatment they need," he said.
"This is most pronounced for transgender and gender diverse individuals who require a significant amount of specialised medical treatment.
"Instead of making an effort to educate themselves to help transgender patients, doctors could simply say they will refuse to treat them because it goes against their religious beliefs and that would be allowed under this legislation.
"For people already at higher risk of depression and suicide, that sort of rejection from someone who they went to seeking care can be hugely detrimental to their mental health."
The Wimmera Pride Project is also concerned the exemptions could allow health providers to refuse same-sex couples IVF services.
An Australian Medical Association spokesman said doctors were allowed to conscientiously object to providing services based on their personal beliefs or values in Victoria. However, they had an ethical obligation to minimise the disruption to patients when they did so.
A spokesman for Member for Mallee Anne Webster said Dr Webster had attended reviews of the draft legislation and believed it provided balance to competing perspectives.
He said no health provider would be able to refuse treatment on medical grounds as part of the proposed laws.
"There may be a need to transfer a patient for health reasons to another provider, but they will not be able to discriminate," the spokesman said.
"In some jurisdictions the anti-discrimination law is not as well-defined as in Victoria, so there needs to be a national framework put over this area."
Under another proposed law, employers would not be allowed to prevent their employees from expressing their religious beliefs in their contract, unless it caused financial harm.
The Wimmera Pride Project spokesman said this was also a concern for the group.
"For example, it would be unreasonable to fire someone because they expressed their religious view that marriage was between a man and a woman," he said.
"However if an employee was actively discriminating against LGBTIQ+ people to the point where another employee that identifies as homosexual felt unsafe or unwelcome, the employer should be allowed to protect the homosexual employee.
"Under this legislation it is unclear if they would be able to if the offending employee claimed they were just sharing their religious view."
He encouraged allies of the group to write to Dr Webster expressing their shared concerns.
"At this stage she does not intend to consult with the electorate to determine if they are in favour of this legislation," he said.
Dr Webster's spokesman said interested groups could participate in the public consultation process by visiting the Attorney-General's Department's website.
He said the office would use the draft for extensive consultation while developing the final legislation.
In its current form, the bill does not define "religious activity". It also proposes creating the position of a Freedom of Religion Commissioner.
Read the full bill below
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