Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
The Greens will not be supporting these amendments. I didn't think it was possible that I was going to learn new things during the course of the debate that I hadn't heard before. But when the conservative forces who've opposed marriage equality said that we now need to enshrine international human rights law in our domestic law, I must say it slightly took me aback.
It is worth looking closely at these amendments, because whilst, on the one hand, they purport to enshrine certain rights that exist internationally, what they do not do is go on to the next part of the section that is quoted, and that is excerpted and lifted out of the international covenants and put in these amendments, because the next part of the section says:
Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
So what is crystal clear from the jurisprudence that the conservatives are seeking to draw on in moving these amendments is that the right of religious freedom does not trump the rights that other people enjoy, and, in fact, to the extent that it does, it can be restricted. So, if you're going to move an amendment that only includes the first part without the second part, what you're in fact saying is that the freedoms and equality that will be enshrined in this bill are able to be trumped by other protections, and that is not what people voted for.
On the second part of these amendments: these amendments give individuals new rights to discriminate against others on the basis of their sexuality—and it's not just simply linked to their religious beliefs or religious organisations; it's linked to their so-called conscientious belief. If one thinks about that even for a moment, what that will allow one to say is: 'I want to opt out of our country's sex discrimination laws because I have a conscientious belief against them.' And you shouldn't be able to just opt out of sex discrimination laws because you don't believe in them.
The Human Rights Law Centre said during the course of considering these amendments:
The idea that a personal moral view could be used to treat someone unfairly because of a particular attribute strikes at the very heart of the rationale for our discrimination laws to begin with, which is all about ensuring equal treatment regardless of particular personal attributes. Introducing a justification for discrimination on the basis of a personal moral view is giving a blank cheque to discriminate.
That is not what Australia voted for and it is not what the bill is meant to be about. These amendments should be opposed.