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Marriage Equality this year: We shall see!

By Terence Mills

What has become known as WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s draft of amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 appear to be the preferred basis for legislative change should the postal opinion poll return a positive result.

Extracts from the explanatory memorandum relating to the draft legislation include:

Ministers of religion will be able to refuse to solemnise a marriage in conformity with their religion’s doctrine, their religious beliefs or in order to avoid injury to the susceptibilities of their religious community (e.g. marriages of same-sex, previously divorced or inter-faith couples) much as is the case under existing legislation (Marriage Act 1961 s.47 … Ministers of religion not bound to solemnise marriage etc).

A new category of religious marriage celebrants will be able to refuse to solemnise a marriage where their religious beliefs do not allow them to do so, bodies established for religious purposes will be able to refuse to provide facilities, goods or services consistent with their religion’s doctrine or if this refusal conforms with religious doctrine, tenets or beliefs or is necessary to avoid injury to the feelings of their religious communities.

This is consistent with existing religious exemptions in section 37 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Bodies established for religious purposes will be able refuse to provide facilities, goods and services where this is required to protect their freedom of religion. This is balanced with ensuring that people are not unfairly discriminated against where there is only a distant or tenuous connection between the facility, good or service and the solemnisation of a marriage. For example, hires of church halls, premises or catering providers, owned by bodies established for religious purposes, would be able to lawfully refuse the use of the church hall or premises or to provide catering for both a wedding ceremony and a wedding reception.

The Bill does not propose any new carve-outs from discrimination law for individuals in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. For example, a taxi driver, florist, baker or photographer who does not work for a body established for religious purposes cannot lawfully refuse to drive a person to a wedding reception, provide flowers, prepare a wedding cake or take photographs at a wedding ceremony on the basis of their religious or other beliefs about marriage.

This is consistent with existing anti-discrimination laws which do not allow refusals of service (e.g. for a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple or a wedding of an inter-racial couple).

You can read the draft legislation and explanatory memorandum here:

Marriage Act 1961

Marriage Amendment (Same Sex Marriage) Bill 201X

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 Explanatory Memorandum

These changes appear to this observer to be reasonably balanced and certainly provide ample religious protection without getting too paranoid. But there is a move by a right-wing conservative group to call for more protections and exemptions, as many as one hundred such amendments according to some sources.

The outcome of the postal opinion poll will be declared on Wednesday and Dean Smith hopes to introduce his Bill during the first sitting of the Senate, then it goes to the House of Representatives who won’t be sitting until 27 November.

We shall see!


18 comments

  1. Kaye Lee

    Dean Smith’s Bill represents a good compromise in my opinion but it really just confirms the status quo.

    Religious organisations and their commercial service providers may continue to use conscientious objection and religious beliefs to exclude people. Private businesses will still be bound by anti-discrimination laws.

    Those arguing for more exemptions (which they like to call protections) are effectively calling for us to go backwards with regard to anti-discrimination and that would indeed be a slippery slope.

    PS The Safe Schools program has absolutely nothing to do with this and those politicians like Steve Dickson and George Christensen who try to link it show their total ignorance of what either issue is about.

  2. wam

    KISS, principles suggest there needs to be only one amen-dment:

    Anyone who voted ‘no’ may maintain that action, in any form they wish, free from any anti-discrimination regulations
    for ever and ever.
    amen
    But there will be so much bulldust that there will be painfully slow progress and, perhaps, no resolution for years?

  3. Terry2

    Well, it didn’t take long for the thought police on the Right to introduce their legislative amendments. Senator James Paterson, recently groomed by the IPA, is to introduce his Bill which would grant a conscientious objection exemption provision which, in his words would exempt :

    Anyone who holds and expresses a belief that same-sex relationships are unholy or immoral would also be protected from anti-discrimination laws, as would anyone who believes “the normative state of gender is binary”.

    This reminds me of an event that occurred to me in the early 1960’s when as a young man I – somewhat optimistically as it turned out – sought to but some condoms from a pharmacy in Brisbane. My request to the assistant warranted a referral to the pharmacist who told me in no uncertain terms that he not only did not support birth control on religious grounds, he also refused to stock contraceptives.

    This event has stuck with me and, of course things changed over succeeding years and that sort of bigotry would not now be countenanced but if we allow the likes of Paterson and his cronies to get their way we will find a whole host of businesses electing to discriminate against gay people or anybody else that they don’t like.

    It’s back to the future time, folks !

  4. paul walter

    It won’t happen because the Tories want to get their kicks road blocking it.

  5. Shutterbug

    And STILL we can’t get any separation of Church and State. I always thought that “The Law is the Law” but not, apparently, if you’re a bible basher…or an LNP senator involved in a citizenship fix come to think of it.
    Considering said Bible (or insert text of choice) Bashers pay no tax, then they should have zero influence on the laws that govern the country, which surprise surprise, includes those who are not of a Bible Bashing Cult or other.

    Should this SSM neutering bill pass, then by definition, the lord’s prayer at the beginning of Parliamentary sittings should be jettisoned too because it is against MY beliefs and, according to the latest ASC figures, against many many others as well.

    That, I would be happy to see gone forever.

  6. @RosemaryJ36

    We need to bite the bullet and follow other countries. A marriage should only be legal if conducted in a Registry Office or by a licensed marriage celebrant who agrees to accept all requests. Religious bodies can then conduct a celebration AFTER the legal event for whomsoever they wish. In Australia, marriage is a legal act and we are a secular country.

  7. Zathras

    If the Church discriminates against or criticises anyone they call it “Religious Freedom”.
    However if anyone returns the favour they call it “Persecution”.

    This stance is no different from the days they used to put a “Whites Only” sign in Alabama store windows or the Apartheid era in South Africa – the right to refuse service for personal reasons (racial grounds in that case).

    There are already some Doctors and Pharmacists who won’t deal with birth control products or prescriptions for religious reasons but one day you may be refused service by a supermarket checkout operator for the same reason.

    All it takes is to cut out the Middle Man (Church service) and marriage is not a problem.
    Marriage has always been a State issue despite the Church being handed a franchise to perform a ceremony.

  8. Shutterbug

    @RosemaryJ36

    Excellent idea and one we would do well to emulate.

    Zathras has hit the nail on the head.

    The Middle Man HAS been given a monopoly on the ‘Marriage Franchise’ and indeed funerals as well.
    I have no issue if they operate in their own sphere of influence, but it is when they start welding the Banhammer on those who do not subscribe to their ideologies that I get my back up.

    I see no issues in combining RosemaryJ36’s idea with that of Zathras’ as the result would be law driven first and religious guff second. Then, maybe, we can put this sorry, sorry episode of anti-SSM to bed forever and push religious influence back to where it belongs. Far, far away from any lever of power.

  9. Kaye Lee

    James Paterson’s Bill is a cynical political exercise as he grooms himself for future stardom in the conservative ranks.

    If religious organisations insist on being discriminatory then perhaps we should reconsider their public funding. By all means, exclude people, but the price should be removal of government money for their schools and aged care centres and tax exemptions. They want to be a private club then so be it. Stop putting your hand out for public money.

  10. Shutterbug

    Kaye.

    Truer words have never been written.
    Thanks for being a sane and enlightened scribe, Kaye. Your work stands head and shoulders above what passes for reportage from the MSM rabble.

  11. Matters Not

    @RosemaryJ36 is on the money. It’s the (elected) State that’s in the business of law making and not religious organisations.

    If people choose to engage in various rituals after fulfilling their legal responsibilities, then so be it. Perhaps jus primae noctis might be granted as a compensation to satisfy their unrealised lusts? LOL.

    And yes James is being political strategic.

  12. Glenn Barry

    James Patterson is a special type of creep – had the audacity to say in an interview this evening on 7:30 that no a baker couldn’t put a sign in their window refusing to serve gays, because that would be illegal, they could however agree to make a gay person a birthday cake and also refuse to make someone a wedding cake based upon their religious beliefs

    His head does not work correctly and yet he thinks he’s making sense

  13. Miriam English

    I’m surprised so many people think the Smith Bill is reasonable. Most of the exemptions it strengthens already exist. They are not needed. The additional exemptions are really not needed. Marriage equality is simple and straight-forward. No ifs and buts. Just do it. We don’t need additional marriage laws to let churches get out of marrying divorced people. It’s already covered. Likewise, we don’t need additional marriage laws to enable discrimination against gays — that is not marriage equality.

    The religious extremists crafting dodgy legislation should have everybody worried. I’m puzzled most people don’t see the danger. On the surface it looks like they’re just aiming at gays, but they’re actually trying to kill off our anti-discrimination laws. If you’re Jewish, divorced, a single parent, an unmarried couple, have ever had an abortion, have non-white skin, are atheist, or religious (devout Catholics still hate devout Protestants, and vice versa), or female, then you could become the target of bigotry and hate from those using “religious reasons” as justification. Everybody should fear this attempt by our version of the Taliban. This is the path to a strife-torn society.

  14. Kronomex

    Trembles the blob is so wibbly-wobbly that he needs a full skeletonectomy with a spine from The Corminator.

  15. WoaiJuguo

    In the name of protecting religious rights (or discrimination) based on faith Australia should emulate the Malaysian solutions where Islamic faith had guided laundrette operators to put up signboards saying that non Muslim clothes are non halal and hence they are not welcome in a Muslim run laundrette. A supermarket also attempted to colour code its shopping trolley and baskets for Muslims and non Muslims and different check-outs. Very soon there will be different currencies in circulation

  16. Miriam English

    If the scary religious extremists in our government get their way we could be heading in that direction. Would the Australian people allow it? Stranger things have happened. In the past we’ve seen many tolerant societies ripped apart before by opportunistic politicians and hateful religious extremists. They manage to infect peaceful societies with divisive attitudes and poison the people with hate. We have a mainstream media that feeds on negative emotion — fear, hate, and greed — and only too eager to spread it around.

    How much would it take to completely wreck our peaceful society? Not as much as you might think, perhaps.

    We need to make it clear to politicians that they will NOT get power if they try to destabilise our society by undermining anti-discrimination laws and promoting bigotry in the absurd name of “religious freedom”.

  17. paul walter

    Main battle lost, they now resort to cognitive guerrilla warfare, a sort of psychic dog in the manger terrorism.

  18. Miriam English

    I don’t think they really expected to win this. They knew 75% to 80% of Australians are in favor of marriage equality. They were just using the occasion to push hate. Perhaps they hoped that if they could cause enough division by promoting huge steaming piles of disinformation they might just possibly win, but I don’t think they really expected it. It was always about promoting hate, causing division, undermining, and delaying.

    I believe their longer-term goal is to undercut the anti-discrimination laws using the smokescreen of what they call “religious freedom”. It’s really just the “freedom” to discriminate against anyone they want to. We’re not just fighting the religious extremists, but also the IPA fanatics, I think. They’re using gays because we’re the easiest to raise ill-will against… and they hate us, of course.

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