Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
Very shortly we'll be finally voting on the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017. As I indicated previously, I'll be voting for that bill in line with my electorate. However, before we do that, I would ask my colleagues, the members of the opposition and the crossbenchers to give one final consideration to this amendment moved by the member for Corangamite, which I support. Firstly, of the two schedules of the amendment, the first schedule is protections of religious freedom. As the member for Corangamite reminded us, this is in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
To not support this amendment is to say that you do not support section 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The second schedule of the amendment goes to ministers of religion and marriage celebrants. Again, I would like every member of parliament to think very carefully about what it means if this amendment is opposed. The Australian government Attorney-General's Department has a website which is titled 'Find a marriage celebrant'. On that it lists different categories of marriage celebrants. It lists the category:
Ministers of religion of recognised denominations who perform religious ceremonies.
They will be exempt from the provisions. They will have the freedom to solemnise a same-sex marriage or not. There is another category:
Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants who perform religious ceremonies for independent religious organisations.
Under the final bill they will also have the right to decide whether to solemnise a same-sex marriage or not to. There is also a third category:
Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants who perform civil ceremonies.
What is proposed under the bill is that those that are listed as civil marriage celebrants will have the ability to, within 90 days, effectively opt in or opt out—however you want to describe it—to put themselves on a separate list where they will give themselves the right to either perform or not perform a same-sex wedding.
I have a fundamental concern that a government website will have two categories of people. It will have one category that will support same-sex marriage and one category that will not. I do not believe that this is the responsibility of government. There should be no distinction on a government website as to whether someone supports same-sex marriage or doesn't support it. For those civil celebrants that wish to do a same-sex wedding, there are other methods. They could take out an advertisement on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald. I'm sure that after the final bill is passed their services will be in great demand. But it should not be a government website that lists two different categories of marriage celebrants: those that will perform same-sex marriages and those that won't. There are several reasons why that should be not done, but one of the most important reasons is that for marriage celebrants on both sides, no matter where they want to stand or whichever list they go on, they should be free from harassment and they should be free from intimidation. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the bill that gives those protections.
Finally, there is also the 90-day section that only allows a civil celebrant 90 days to go on that list. After those 90 days, that section is forever closed. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, an important freedom of religion— (Time expired)