The nation’s top lawyers have attacked Senator James Paterson’s draft bill on same-sex marriage, saying it will erode the human rights of LGBTI people.
Senator Paterson, who is a Yes voter, released the draft bill on Monday, saying it will allow same-sex couples to marry while “preserving the freedoms of all Australians”.
The 59-page draft bill is different from Senator Dean Smith’s bill, in that it gives people wide ranging protections from legal repercussions if they hold a “religious or conscientious belief” that marriage should be between a man and a woman. While, under the Smith bill, the protections are much narrower and based solely on religious grounds.
The Paterson bill not only includes a religious belief, but also includes a belief such as “the family structure of a man and a woman united in marriage with their children is a fundamental building block of human society”; sexual relations should only occur between a man and a woman within a marriage or “the gender difference and complementarity of men and women is an inherent and fundamental feature of human society”.
Under his proposal, businesses such as florists, cake makers and function centres, could refuse to provide goods and services for same-sex weddings, on the ground of those “religious or conscientious belief”.
However, the bill will not allow businesses to refuse to provide goods and services because of an individual’s sexual orientation if it doesn’t relate to marriage. Senator Paterson told ABC, businesses cannot say “no gays allowed”, but they can say “I don’t serve gay weddings” or “I only serve traditional weddings”.
Under this bill, wedding celebrants and ministers of religion can also refuse to officiate same-sex weddings on the basis of those “religious or conscientious belief”.
In addition, parents have the right to remove their children from a class, such as the Safe Schools program, if they believe the teaching materials are inconsistent with their belief in traditional marriage.
The Paterson bill also goes beyond same-sex marriage.
It allows individuals to express their opinion without repercussions and parents to pull their children from a class if they oppose same-sex relationships or believe the “normative state of gender is binary and can, in the overwhelming majority of cases, be identified at birth”.
The Paterson bill contrasts with Senator Dean Smith’s bill, which was endorsed by four MPs, including Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Trent Zimmerman, and has the backing of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Under the Smith bill, the protections are much narrower and based only on religious grounds.
Under his proposal, ministers of religion can refuse to officiate same-sex weddings on religious grounds.
Marriage celebrants can also refuse to officiate same-sex weddings, if their religious beliefs do not allow them to solemnise the marriage, however they must first register to be officially identified as a “religious marriage celebrant”.
It also allows religious organisations to refuse to provide goods and services for same-sex weddings on religious grounds.
The Paterson bill sparked criticism from the legal community, who say it will result in human rights violation of LGBTI people.
Attorney-General George Brandis told Nine Network on Tuesday: “If it’s legally and morally wrong to discriminate against one gay person, I don’t know how it becomes right to discriminate against two”.
Meanwhile, Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod said on Monday the bill will encroach on many protections for LGBTI people in an “extraordinary and perilous way”.
“You could potentially see a situation where a hire car company could leave their customers stranded on the way to a marriage ceremony simply because the driver held a thought or belief against it. This is even if the belief had nothing to do with religion,” she said.
The results of the marriage postal survey are due to be announced at 10am on Wednesday.
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