Liberal senator Dean Smith has said undermining Australia’s anti-discrimination laws following the same-sex marriage postal survey would allow similar moves against other minority groups.
With the announcement of the postal survey result a fortnight away, “no” campaigners have begun pushing for all “conscientious objectors” to be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples in the event of a successful “yes” vote.
But the Western Australian senator, who drafted the most widely-supported same-sex marriage bill, has rejected such a proposal and said his bill strikes a “fair balance” to protect religious views.
“In arguing that anti-discrimination laws should be unwound for gay and lesbian Australians, it could also be argued that they should be unwound for other Australians,” Senator Smith told The West Australian.
“Very, very few Australians would agree that one discrimination should be removed and replaced with other discriminations.”
He told the publication he was confident such a proposal wouldn’t get through the federal parliament.
Smith’s bill is based on the findings of a cross-party Senate inquiry into the issue and already provides exemptions for churches, religious organisations, their businesses, and existing civil celebrants who have religious objections to same-sex weddings. The bill has been supported by Labor and leading LGBTI groups.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said after a successful “yes” vote, same-sex marriage legislation would “sail through” the parliament before Christmas.
A group of conservatives have reportedly been privately drafting their own bill to put forward after a “yes” vote, with prominent “no” campaigner Eric Abetz saying this week that Smith’s “inadequate” bill would need “60-100 amendments”.
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar told Sky News (via The Guardian) that Smith’s bill “doesn’t contain the full suite of protections that many of our voters would expect” and a “broad-ranging anti-detriment provision” would “absolutely be required from my perspective”.
He said such a provision “basically says, not just for clergy … if you’re somebody in the course of your life who expresses a view of traditional marriage, you shouldn’t suffer a detriment for that.”
The Equality Campaign’s Tiernan Brady told The Guardian the postal survey was about ending discrimination in the law and it would be “an insult and disrespectful to do the opposite” after a “yes” vote.
“Any attempt to unravel existing discrimination laws, which have served the Australian people well, not just LGBTI people, would be a direct repudiation of the people’s will,” he said.
Brady said a no-detriment clause was a “nonsense” and there was no detriment when two people of the same-sex were allowed to access civil marriage.
He asked whether a “no-detriment” clause would apply to divorced people or others who had broken religious rules around marriage.