Leading marriage equality groups, Australians for Equality (A4E) and Australian Marriage Equality appeared today at the Senate Committee of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill.

“For the first time ever an Australian Government has produced marriage equality legislation, its now time for this Parliament to get on with delivering this straightforward reform for equality,” Alex Greenwich, Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality said.

Co-Chair of Australians for Equality (A4E) and Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre Anna Brown said we cannot stress enough that this reform is simply about extending the right of civil marriage to all Australians, marriage equality should not be used to wind back current ant-discrimination laws.

“Expecting LGBTI people to accept marriage equality at the cost of legal protection from discrimination is unjust and unnecessary. Australia is a sensible country where anti-discrimination laws already accommodate religious freedom and these standards should not be wound back.”

Ms Brown said that proposals to allow ministers of religion and civil celebrants to refuse marriages on the basis of ‘conscientious belief’ were a significant step backwards.

“An individual’s personal moral view should not legally justify discrimination. The purpose of discrimination law is to protect people from unfair treatment simply because of who they are or who they love. Introducing this concept into our law would unwind existing discrimination protections and set a dangerous precedent for the future.

Ms Brown also raised concerns about the proposals that civil celebrants should be able to discriminate against LGBTI people.

“Civil celebrants were introduced to provide a dignified secular alternative to religious marriage ceremonies and now conduct around 75% of marriages in Australia. Unlike ministers of religion, civil celebrants are appointed to perform a secular function on behalf of the state. There is no place for discrimination in these ceremonies,” Ms Brown concluded.

Mr Greenwich reminded the inquiry that, “the Parliament has the power to enact marriage equality, and do so in a way that allows same-sex couples access to civil marriage, without impeding the freedoms of religious marriage celebrations.”

“The majority of Australians and MPs want this straightforward change to be achieved and it’s pleasing to see the Committee no longer talking about if but how this reform can be delivered.

“We request that the marriage equality Senate Committee finalise a reasonable and fair outcome for all Australians,” Mr Greenwich concluded.


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