LGBTI Advocates Blast Liberal MP’s New Same-Sex Marriage Bill


Conservative Liberal MP James Paterson has released a same-sex marriage bill that would weaken anti-discrimination protections against LGBTI people.

Paterson’s draft bill would override state and territory anti-discrimination laws to allow the refusal of same-sex weddings by those holding a “genuine” religious or “conscientious belief” against same-sex marriage, allowing discrimination by private service providers.

The “relevant marriage beliefs” protected by Paterson’s bill begin with “a genuine religious or conscientious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

The bill also defines a “relevant belief” as “a genuine religious or conscientious belief that a same-sex relationship is not consistent with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the religion or the conscience of the person; or the normative state of gender is binary and can, in the overwhelming majority of cases, be identified at birth.”

The draft legislation asserts the right of parents to opt their children out of classes that conflict with their “relevant marriage belief or relevant belief”.

The bill’s provisions would override existing state and territory anti-discrimination laws, stating explicitly that when the two conflict, the federal law “shall prevail”.

Paterson’s bill goes further than an existing proposal by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, whose bill has the support of Labor and multiple Coalition MPs.

Smith’s bill includes exemptions to allow religious organisations and existing civil celebrants to refuse same-sex marriages that conservatives have called “inadequate”.

Paterson (pictured), who says he supports both marriage equality and religious freedom, said: “If the parliament opts for a narrower bill with fewer protections, I fear we will see some Australians seek to impose their values on others, with court cases and other legal mechanisms.

“No one should want to see the messy court cases that have occurred after same-sex marriage was legalised in other countries.

“I’ve never believed that allowing same-sex couples to marry needs to come at the expense of the freedoms of other Australians.”

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek told ABC Radio the Paterson bill was another “delaying tactic”.

“Are we really saying in Australia today that you can refuse to serve someone because they’re gay?” Plibersek said.

“You cannot say I’m not going to bake you a cake because I don’t agree with a black person and a white person getting married, or I’m not going to bake you a cake because you’re too old to get married … or you’re divorced, and my faith says divorced people can’t get married.”

Australian Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich said the Paterson bill’s provisions were “unacceptable” because Australia had moved beyond the era where there was “a sign outside the shops about who you will and won’t serve”.

“This isn’t a marriage equality bill, it’s a marriage discrimination bill. People have voted to move us forward, not backwards,” he said.

The results of the same-sex marriage postal survey will be announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has committed to giving his MPs a conscience vote on an unspecified private member’s same-sex marriage bill in the event of a “yes” vote, opening the door for multiple bills and amendments to be put to the parliament.

Several high-profile LGBTI equality advocates have written to all federal MPs asking that no extra provisions allowing discrimination be included in the Marriage Act in return for the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Veteran campaigner Rodney Croome said: “If Australia has voted ‘yes’ it will be a vote for full equality, and not further discrimination.

“A ‘yes’ vote will mean Australia has conclusively rejected the No campaign’s myth that marriage equality is a threat to freedom, and that special safeguards are required to guard against this threat.”

The group of advocates have also opposed the exemptions in the Smith bill, pointed out no other other country accompanied their own same-sex marriage reform with provisions weakening anti-discrimination protections.

Read the letter in full below:

To all federal MPs and Senators,

We believe an amendment to the Marriage Act to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIQ+) couples to marry should be as simple and straightforward as possible. It should not include provisions that allow these couples to be refused service, over and above provisions currently in Marriage Act.

We note that in comparable jurisdictions, including Britain, Ireland, Canada, USA, and New Zealand, marriage equality was achieved without additional provisions allowing further discrimination against LGBTIQ+ couples.

We believe:
– allowing LGBTIQ+ couples to marry requires nothing more than changing a few words in the legal definition of marriage and the removal of the ban on recognising overseas same-sex marriages
– a number of bills have already set this standard, including bills previously introduced by Labor MP, Stephen Jones, and a cross-party bill from Liberal MP, Warren Entsch.
– the existing provision allowing Ministers of Religion to refuse their services on the basis of tenets of their religion have been sufficient since at least 1961 to protect religious values, and will continue to be sufficient

We understand a range of extra, discriminatory provisions have been proposed including:
– provisions allowing refusal of service to by civil celebrants, commercial businesses, charities, professionals or government employees, on the basis of religious belief or personal conscience
– provisions that allow for married LGBTIQ+ partners to be discriminated against in employment or housing, that curtail school diversity programs, that allow discrimination in fertility services, or that weaken protections against hate speech

We are concerned that these extra, discriminatory provisions:
– violate the principles of equality before the law, non-discrimination, separation of church and state, and fairness and dignity for all
– send the damaging and false message that LGBTIQ+ people and our relationships pose a unique threat from which religious values and the institution of marriage need special protection
– set a dangerous precedent for allowing further discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people under the guise of “religious freedom”, as is occurring in the United States
– have not been put directly to the LGBTIQ and allied communities for consultation

We ask that:
– no extra provisions allowing discrimination or refusal of service be included in the Marriage Act or consequential amendments, including the extra provisions allowing discrimination in Dean Smith’s Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017
– the LGBTIQ+ and allied communities be consulted about any Bill before it is put to Parliament.

Yours Sincerely,
Peter Furness, former Australian Marriage Equality national director
Rodney Croome AM, former Australian Marriage Equality national director and just.equal spokesperson
Shelley Argent OAM, national spokesperson for Parents and friends of Lesbians and Gays
Ivan Hinton-Teoh, founder and national spokesperson for just.equal
Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, convener of the Equality Project
Sharyn Faulkner, spokesperson for Geelong for Marriage Equality
Felicity Marlowe, advocate for rainbow families
Brian Greig OAM, former Democrats Senator for WA
Jac Tomlins, veteran LGBTI Activist
Troy Simpson, author