Law dean who was under fire for transgender comments steps down from role
Sydney Morning Herald
Professor Patrick Parkinson, AM, will leave his role as academic dean and head of the TC Beirne School of Law in January before “transitioning to a fractional appointment” at the university.
Appointed in May 2018 after time as a family law and child protection specialist at the University of Sydney, Professor Parkinson also chairs the conservative think tank Freedom for Faith. The Australian Christian Lobby also commissioned a report from him while at his former university.
Professor Parkinson told Brisbane Times on Tuesday that “giving up” the senior role to better balance his work and family life had been a difficult decision to make.
News of the departure came a little over a year after his comments at a September 2019 Freedom for Faith conference in Sydney sparked a revolt in the law faculty in Brisbane.
Presenting a paper prepared for the event, Professor Parkinson argued that religious schools should be free to not accept the “new” gender identity of a child who wanted to transition.
The conference, held at NSW’s Parliament House, was also addressed by federal Liberal senator for Queensland Amanda Stoker and Justice Sarah Derrington, president of the Australian Law Reform Commission, which is conducting a nationwide review of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.
The paper – Is Gender Identity Discrimination a Religious Freedom Issue? – drew comparisons between transgender children and those with eating disorders, while attempting to outline “just how many of the ideas strongly promulgated by some in the transgender movement are based upon unscientific beliefs”.
“These sentiments are not reflective of the inclusive culture fostered amongst law students,” the society wrote at the time.
Professor Parkinson said the fact he spoke on “difficult social issues” had “never been an issue” for university leadership.
“They recognise the importance of academic freedom,” he said. “As a family lawyer and child expert, I have dealt with difficult issues throughout my career.”
The University of Tasmania Law Review rejected another recent paper by Professor Parkinson critiquing that state’s review of transgender laws, News Corp reported last week.
Professor Andrew Griffiths, executive dean of UQ’s Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, said Professor Parkinson had been a “great contributor” to the law school and the broader faculty, and he was “delighted” that he would remain on its staff until 2026.
“In the coming weeks, an internal acting head of school will be appointed and they will work with Patrick on a seamless transition,” he said. “We will commence an external recruitment process in the new year.”