House debates

Thursday, 7 December 2017


Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail

4:44 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2), as circulated in my name, together:

(1) Page 3 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

4 Protection of religious freedom

Nothing in this Act limits or derogates from the right of any person, in a lawful manner, to manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

(2) Schedule 1, item 20, page 10 (line 11) to page 11 (line 10), omit the item, substitute:

20 Section 47

Repeal the section, substitute:

47 Ministers of religion and marri age celebrants may refuse to solemnise marriages

Ministers of religion

(1) A minister of religionmay refuse to solemnise a marriage despite anything in this Part.

(2) In particular, nothing in this Part prevents a minister of religion from:

(a) making it a condition of solemnising a marriage that:

  (i) notice of the intended marriage is given to the minister earlier than this Act requires; or

  (ii) additional requirements to those provided by this Act are complied with; and

(b) refusing to solemnise the marriage if the condition is not observed.

(3) A minister of religion may refuse to solemnise a marriage despite anything in this Part, if any of the following applies:

(a) the refusal conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the minister's religious body or religious organisation;

(b) the refusal is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion;

(c) the minister's religious beliefs do not allow the minister to solemnise the marriage.

Marriage celebrants

(4) A marriage celebrant may refuse to solemnise a marriage, despite anything in this Part, if the marriage celebrant's religious or conscientious beliefs do not allow the marriage celebrant to solemnise the marriage.

Grounds for refusal not limited by this section

(5) This section does not limit the grounds on which a minister of religion or a marriage celebrant may refuse to solemnise a marriage.

Today we will be voting on a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry. This is a historic day for the Australian parliament and our nation. As I made clear in my second reading speech last night, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental freedoms in a representative democracy such as ours. I have long supported the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, but throughout this debate I've worked hard to ensure that the views of every person I represent in Corangamite are acknowledged and respected. As I said last night, I believe charities must be protected, marriage celebrants must be free to marry whom they choose and freedoms of speech and religion must be protected. I am concerned that the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 does not provide adequate protections.

I wish to place on record that I support the principles which underpinned a number of the other amendments before the House today—such that we would all be free to hold, express or teach views supporting traditional marriage without fear of recrimination in any form—but I was concerned about their scope. In spite of some concerns that I had that these amendments might be beyond power, I supported the Treasurer's amendments relating to faith based charities. The amendments I have moved demonstrate that I have stayed true to the commitment I gave to my constituents that I will support a bill to change the Marriage Act with strong religious protections.

The first amendment I have moved ensures the protection of religious freedom. It provides that nothing in this act limits or derogates from the right of any person, in a lawful manner, to manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. This amendment is intended to make it clear that religious freedom is protected using language based on paragraph 1 of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It emphasises that nothing in the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 will in any way prevent or limit the rights of people to practice their faith, to preach their faith or to teach the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and observances which underpin their faith.

All Australians are free to choose their religion and to express and practice their religion and believes without intimidation or interference as long as those practices are within the framework of Australian law. If Labor members support religious freedoms, Labor members should vote for these amendments. But, as we have heard in this debate, Labor members have not been granted a genuine free vote.

The second amendment I have moved enables marriage celebrants other than ministers of religion to refuse to solemnise marriages on the basis of the celebrants' religious or conscientious beliefs. This amendment would provide further support to the religious freedoms of secular celebrants whose religious beliefs and practices preclude solemnising same-sex marriage. It would also afford protection to those celebrants who have a conscientious objection to marriages which are not traditional marriages between a man and a woman. In other words, it would protect celebrants whose personal, philosophical or cultural beliefs about marriage are not founded in a religious teaching or viewpoint. Such celebrants could decline to marry a couple without rendering themselves vulnerable to complaints brought under antidiscrimination legislation.

It is the case that the Senate has considered these amendments and that these amendments were rejected, but that is no reason for members in this place to vote against them. I'm also unpersuaded by the argument that amending the bill would delay the carriage of this bill. We have to get this bill right. That is a fundamental obligation on all of us as legislators, and that is why amending the bill in the manner I have proposed is important and necessary. I commend these amendments to the House.


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