Leading national marriage equality groups, Australians for Equality (A4E) and Australian Marriage Equality (AME) have today lodged their joint submission to the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill.

“We welcome for the first time in Australian history where we have a marriage equality Bill produced by Government to provide marriage equality to all Australians,”AME Co-Chair Alex Greenwich said.

“We strongly support the draft Bill’s change to allow marriage to be about ‘two people’ who want to build a committed and secure future together.

“The clear majority of Australians from all walks of life want marriage equality to become a reality and for our laws to represent our values of a fair go for all. We continue to stress that this inquiry must be about working towards a clear pathway to marriage equality in 2017,” Alex Greenwich said.

“While both organisations support religious freedom, however we believe the protections in our existing laws address this sufficiently. We do not support this unnecessary additional exemptions proposed in the draft marriage equality Bill”,” A4E Co-Chair, Anna Brown said.

“This is about marriage under civil law and allowing every Australian the same opportunities in life.  While religious freedom is important for every Australian, it should be developed in a balanced manner and not involve further winding back of existing anti-discrimination protections.

“Ministers of religion are and should always be free to conduct marriages in accordance with their religious tenets and doctrines. Marriage equality is about civil marriage by the State and committed same-sex couples should not be singled out for exclusion when laws already protect religious freedoms. 

“Civil celebrants are acting on behalf of the State. There should be no place for discrimination in a civil service performed on behalf of the State.

“The Bill proposes to introduce the concept of a ‘conscientious belief’ and permit civil celebrants to discriminate against same-sex couples on the basis of their personal individual views not necessarily linked to religion. This new proposed justification for discrimination sets a dangerous precedent in Australian law.

“There is a risk that this exemption could be extended to other contexts such as commercial services, education or health or used to justify discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, religion.  

The Bill also proposes that ‘religious bodies’ and ‘religious organisations’ be permitted to refuse to provide facilities, goods or services to LGBTI people for their weddings. This exemption is unnecessary, given the existing broad religious exemptions in federal discrimination law.

“While it is pleasing to see that for the first time in Australian history we have a marriage equality bill to debate there are aspects of the proposed bill that we believe should not be supported,” Anna Brown said.

“The difference of this inquiry from those previous is the engagement. Individuals and organisations large, small, religious, cultural and community bodies have all reached out to us to discuss their submissions,” Alex Greenwich said.

AME and A4E are aware of more than 200 major religious and ethno-religious groups, individuals and clergy ranging from but not restricted to Buddhist, Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and celebrants from across Australia who have made submissions to the inquiry in support of marriage equality.

“This amount of support from an individual level and organisational level displays Australia’s scope of support for this reform.

“This should be a straight forward reform that enables every Australian the same opportunities while at the same time making our nation a fairer place for everyone,” Alex Greenwich concluded. 

MEDIA: Clint McGilvray 0413 285 186 or Mike Fairbairn 0448 524 731