LGBT Australians oppose draft bill that ties same-sex marriage to freedom to discriminate

LGBT Australians are overwhelmingly opposed to proposals in a new bill on same-sex marriage, which would permit gay couples to marry but also permit religious people to discriminate against them.

Proponents of equal marriage in Australia suffered a major setback last year when attempts to reach a cross-party deal on the issue were derailed.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refuses to permit a free Parliamentary vote on equal marriage, while pro-LGBT opposition parties ensured the defeat of plans to put equality to a public vote.

In a bid to find a compromise on the issue, Attorney-General George Brandis has drawn up draft proposals for legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry, but at the same time allow civil celebrants, faith-based businesses and military chaplains to discriminate against them based on “a religious or conscientious objection” to gay people getting married.

Some conservatives have proposed broadening this to include all wedding-related businesses and even government marriage registrars.

This week a national research survey of LGBT Australians found that 81% oppose the idea that services could be refused, with opposition rising to 90% when respondents discovered the government’s proposal targets same-sex couples specifically.

Opposition to refusal-of-service provisions remained just as high even when respondents were faced with the scenario that achieving same-sex marriage in this term of government depends on allowing refusal of service.

Unsurprisingly support for marriage equality remains extremely high in the LGBT community, at 98%.

PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent, said: “The majority of LGBTIQ people are clearly saying that access to marriage on condition they can be refused services is not marriage equality.

“We will now launch a lobbying campaign on the back of this survey to show politicians that LGBTIQ people want true marriage equality, not a watered-down version that entrenches prejudice and discrimination.”

Just.equal national campaigner, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said: “The LGBTIQ community has said, overwhelmingly, that this is a campaign for full and equal treatment under law, not conditional access to the institution of marriage with new forms of legal discrimination sneaking in the back door.”

Long-time marriage equality campaigner, Rodney Croome, said, “The message to politicians is that the LGBTIQ community does not want the path to marriage equality to be lined with new inequalities, just as it didn’t want the path to lead through a hateful plebiscite.

“The challenge to our political leaders is to find a path forward that treats all Australians with equal dignity.

“We completely support the existing provision of the Marriage Act that allows religious freedom for clergy, but we draw the line at proposed provisions that target same-sex couples and treat us differently to other couples.”

In the submission to a Senate inquiry, Mr Hinton-Teoh wrote that refusal of service provisions undermines the point of marriage equality.

He warned: “We are concerned that the proposed provisions are specific to same-sex couples. This means same-sex relationships will continue to be stigmatised as second-rate and less worthy than heterosexual relationships.

“One of the main reasons for allowing same-sex couples to marry is to challenge the deep, historical stigma and prejudice against same-sex relationships. We oppose the proposed provisions because they will perpetuate this stigma.”