What’s Next For The Australian Same-Sex Marriage Debate?

Australia is waiting for the November 15th announcement on the marriage equality postal survey to see if the Yes or No vote has won. Nicole Baker-Bryson from Facebook group The Truth About Marriage spoke to Melbourne’s LGBTI radio station JOY 949’s The Andrew And Troy Show about Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s proposed private members bill that will be introduced to federal parliament if the result is yes.

In the radio interview she discusses the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act, the current religious exemptions from the Sex Discrimination Act and the reasons why religious organisations will want to push for more rights to discriminate against LGBTI couples. Currently, the Marriage Act of 1961 already allows ministers of religion the right to refuse to officiate the wedding of any couple, for any reason.

According to Baker-Bryson, Dean Smith’s bill has many faults. She says it has not been written in the best interests of same-sex couples but, rather, for religious organisations who want further powers to legally discriminate. Clause 47B(1) of the Bill states: “A body established for religious purposes may refuse to make a facility available, or to provide goods or services, for the purposes of the solemnisation of a marriage, or for purposes reasonably incidental to the solemnisation of a marriage, if the refusal:

(a) conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the body; or
(b) is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion.

The vague language used in this amendment is one of the most concerning aspects, says Baker-Bryson. She also claims that the language used mirrors much of that from the Australian Christian Lobby-aligned Institute For Civil Society submission to the Senate Inquiry on Same-Sex Marriage.

Should the Yes vote prevail on November 15, Baker-Bryson foresees the future of the No campaign in the Senate as conservative MPs have proposed up to 100 amendments to Smith’s bill before they will support it.

Some of these changes include expanded “religious protections” for the “conscientious objector” to same-sex marriage whether they be individuals, businesses, schools, charities, and will allow ministers of religion and religious bodies to express or act on the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Baker-Bryson says she is greatly concerned about the word “conscientious” in the bill, which will allow anyone to discriminate against same-sex couples without the consequences of the current Sex Discrimination Act.

The full show airs 10 pm (AEDST) Monday night on JOY949 and can be streamed online through the JOY website.


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