Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
On this amendment, I just want to indicate I'll certainly be opposing it. This is an amendment that will radically wind back our discrimination protection—an amendment that directly targets LGBTI people. So let be me clear: the majority of Australians voted yes on same-sex couples being treated fairly and equally across every state and territory. Australians have said that they want same-sex couples to have the same dignity and respect.
This bill has already passed in the Senate. It comes from a cross-party committee process that considered these questions in detail. It will allow all loving couples to finally tie the knot. The bill already protects the rights of ministers of religion, religious marriage celebrants and religious bodies to refuse services to LGBTI people. This is consistent with what our laws already say. Churches and religious groups already can hire and fire employees, refuse service to gay people and teach their religious doctrine. This bill does not change that.
But this amendment to the bill will radically change the religious exemptions test in our discrimination laws. Australians voted yes to remove discrimination against the LGBTI community, not to introduce new forms of discrimination. Our discrimination laws have set the standards for acceptable behaviour. Australians don't want our nation taken back many years by entrenching mistreatment and discrimination against same-sex couples because they get married.
We have an eminent panel of religious-belief experts who will look at the religious freedoms in a meticulous and comprehensive way. They certainly can do that, I think, and that is the right forum to deal with changes to other laws.
This bill should deal only with the Marriage Act. This amendment would dramatically wind back these important protections that protect our friends and family and neighbours from noncompliance and marginalisation. It lowers the test for discrimination. But what does this mean in practice? It means that, after same-sex couples get married, they will be less free from discrimination. I certainly oppose it. Thank you very much indeed.