Parliamentary committee split on marriage equality bill


The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights have shown selective support for a private members bill for marriage equality, though some members have voiced their dissent to the legislation.

The committee, whose responsibility is to analyse human rights concerns in writs of legislation, released its report on Tuesday. While the committee did not endorse the bill introduced by Coalition MP Warren Entsch, it did confirm the bill would promote equality and end the discrimination of Australia’s Marriage Act.

The report also supports the bills support for families, stating that the bill is “extending the availability of marriage to same-sex couples”, and “does not limit, and may promote, the obligation to consider the best interests of the child.”

Some committee members have announced their concerns that the bill may erode religious freedoms. Nationals MP David Gillespie, Liberal MP Michael Sukkar and Nationals Senator Matt Canavan agree the bill would breach the rights of civil celebrants by not allowing them to refuse same-sex marriages.

“It’s important to recognise this report is about the human rights implications of the bill, not whether any individual members or senators support the bill,” Senator Canavan told the ABC.

“We have concerns that the bill as drafted does not protect peoples’ freedom of religion and belief. Those rights are held with individuals, not with the Catholic Church, or Islam, or a Buddhist Temple.”

The three parliamentarians believe the bill is in breach of United Nations human rights conventions.

“The way the bill is drafted, only ministers of religion are exempt, not celebratsn, and not even ministers of religion who may have a different view to the religious practice that they’re accredited under,” Senator Canavan continued.

“Any change to our marriage laws should ensure that every Australian has the right not to solemnise same-sex marriages, if they’re in the game of being a celebrant and solemnising marriages.”

Marriage equality proponents have condemned the dissenting opinion, with Greens Senator and LGBTI spokesperson Robert Simms dismissing the complaints as “clutching at straws.”

“This is just the latest last-ditch effort for opponents of marriage equality in this Parliament to delay reform, and this time they’re cloaking their bigotry and homophobia in the language of human rights and some of the claims that are made are insulting in the extreme,” Senator Simms says.

“The suggestion that somehow same-sex parents are deficient or failing to meet the needs of children is incredibly insulting. It’s incredibly insulting to gay and lesbian people and same-sex parents, but it’s also insulting to their friends and family right across the country.”

Senator Simms says that the state has every right to ‘step in’ on civil marriage ceremonies to enforce the law and vilify discrimination.

“Under federal law all people should have an opportunity to marry,” he says, “The great irony here is that the United Nations has been a big advocate for recognising equality for LGBTI people – to use the Charter of Human Rights to try and justify homophobia and bigotry is bizarre and insulting.”

Senator Simms has just this morning launched a postcard campaign calling for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote on the issue.

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“Today we have launched a postcard campaign promoting the fact that Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull are still pushing the same policy position. We have had two leaders but the one policy,” Senator Simms said.

“We have two wedding crashers in the Coalition preventing progress on this reform: Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull. A free vote on marriage equality will break with the Jurassic Park era of Tony Abbott.”

Senator Simms will move a motion in the Senate today calling for the Prime Minister to allow a free vote.

OIP Staff

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