Mixed responses to Senator Dean Smith’s marriage equality bill

The reaction to the private members bill for marriage equality, put forward by Western Australian Senator Dean Smith, has been mixed.

The proposal, which is based on the outcomes of a senate inquiry into the issue, allows protections for churches, and establishes a new category of ‘religious civil celebrant’. While also changing the marriage act to describe marriage as a union between “two people”.

The Equality campaign has welcomed the bill saying it will allow marriage equality to become a reality in Australia. While just.equal have raised concerns about the religious exemptions contained within the proposed legislation.

The Australian Christian Lobby, the leading group against allowing gay couples the right to wed, has argued that the bill does not include enough exemptions for people of faith.

Anna Brown Co-Chair of The Equality Campaign said the bill is in keeping with the road-map set by the bipartisan Senate report released earlier this year.

“This brings hope to the many lesbian and gay Australians and their families, friends and colleagues, who just want to be treated equally under Australian law and marry the person they love.

“All Australians should have the same opportunities for love, commitment and happiness. We’ve been waiting for marriage equality for a long time and now our politicians have the opportunity to make it a reality with a bill that reflects the hard work and extensive consultation undertaken by a Senate committee earlier this year.

“This is about civil marriage. No religious sacrament is impacted in anyway. Religious leaders will still have the right to conduct their marriage ceremonies in line with their doctrines and beliefs,” Brown said.

Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich said the bill represents the most robust and genuine approach to achieve marriage equality that the parliament has even seen.

“This legislation provides the parliament with a historic opportunity to come together and deliver on the settled will of the Australian people,” Alex Greenwich said.

Longtime marriage equality campaigners Rodney Croome and Ivan Hinton-Teoh from just.equal have raised concern about the religious exemptions contained within the bill, saying they may be too broad.

The group says more consultation is needed with the LGBTI community so that people can be assured about how the exemptions might impact their lives.

Spokesperson, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said the LGBTI community will be impacted by exemptions allowing discrimination and should have a say about how far these exemptions go.

“Congratulations go to the Liberals who are committed to achieving marriage equality. Now is the time for them to consult with the LGBTI community and communicate the merits of their bill.”

“Earlier this year the largest LGBTI community survey ever conducted found overwhelming opposition to exemptions that would allow discrimination against same-sex couples in the provision of wedding services.”

“I’m concerned that some of the bill’s exemptions may be too broad, for example by allowing any business that can claim a faith link, however tenuous, to turn away same-sex couples.”

“We should be vigilant against importing America’s culture war over ‘religious freedom’ into Australian law.”

“It’s only fair that the LGBTI community be properly consulted on exemptions that could see same-sex couples turned away by service providers.”

The Australian Christian Lobby has maintained its position that the law should not be changed, and argued that the proposed bill does provide protections to people in professions related to the wedding industry who may want to discriminate against LGBTI people.

Managing Director of the ACL, Lyle Shelton, said Senator Smith had failed to consult with religious groups and the proposed bill did not go far enough.

“If Senator Smith had been following the debate he would be aware of the intolerance of the same-sex marriage movement towards Coopers’ Brewery, a Christian IBM executive, a Christian Macquarie University academic, an Archbishop and a pastor in Tasmania.

“In the US, an elderly florist and a cake decorator are before the US Supreme Court because they believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“Under same-sex marriage law you can refuse to ice a Halloween cake or a make one for a buck’s night but the law will force you to violate your views on marriage,” Shelton said in a statement.

Shelton said if the Liberal party allowed same-sex marriage to occur voters would turn to more conservative parties at the next election.

“It is breath-taking for Senator Smith to claim he is protecting freedom of religion when he has not consulted,” he said.

It has been highlighted on social media that the bill is based on the findings of the Senate Inquiry which consulted with a large number of religious and family groups.

OIP Staff

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