The Equality Campaign Welcomes Civil Marriage Equality Bill

06 August 2017

       

THE EQUALITY CAMPAIGN WELCOMES CIVIL MARRIAGE EQUALITY BILL

The Equality Campaign today welcomed the release of a bill that can allow civil marriage equality to now become a reality.

Anna Brown, Co-Chair of The Equality Campaign, said the Bill is in keeping with the roadmap set by the bipartisan Senate report agreed on earlier this year.

“This brings hope to the many lesbian and gay Australians and their families, friends, and colleagues, who just want to be treated equally under Australian law and marry the person they love.

“All Australians should have the same opportunities for love, commitment, and happiness. We’ve been waiting for marriage equality for a long time and now our politicians have the opportunity to make it a reality with a Bill that reflects the hard work and extensive consultation undertaken by a Senate committee earlier this year.

“This is about civil marriage. No religious sacrament is impacted in any way. Religious leaders will still have the right to conduct their marriage ceremonies in line with their doctrines and beliefs,” Anna Brown said.

Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, Alex Greenwich said the bill represents the most robust and genuine approach to achieve marriage equality that the parliament has even seen. Its passage will fulfill the hopes of loving and same-sex couples to get married, and truly reflect Australia's shared values of fairness and equality.

“This legislation provides the parliament with a historic opportunity to come together and deliver on the settled will of the Australian people,” Alex Greenwich said.

“This Bill provides a real chance for parliament to introduce marriage equality in line with the long held wishes of the nation,” said Tiernan Brady, Executive Director, The Equality Campaign.

“It is easy in the middle of all the politics to forget what or rather who this is about. Marriage equality is about real people, our friends and family, teammates and work colleagues who just want the same dignity as everyone else in their families.

"All across Australia people have proved to parliament that their campaign for marriage equality will not go away or go quiet. People need to contact their MPs and tell them now is the moment to allow all Australians equality dignity,” Tiernan Brady said.

MEDIA: Clint McGilvray 0413 285 186

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON MARRIAGE BILL

 

Will the Bill allow for marriage equality?

Yes. The Bill allows for any adult couple to marry, regardless of their sex. This means that all LGBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people will be able to marry in Australia. Same-sex couples that married overseas will now have their marriages recognised in Australia.

 

Will ministers of religion be allowed to refuse same-sex marriage ceremonies?

Yes. Ministers of religion are currently not bound to solemnise any marriage provided they comply with anti-discrimination laws. That will continue to be the case. The Bill proposes that ministers of religion can refuse to perform marriage ceremonies that are inconsistent with the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of their religion or where necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of their followers, including not performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.

 

Will religious organisations be allowed to refuse to provide facilities, goods or services for same-sex weddings?

Yes, but only to the extent allowed under existing anti-discrimination laws.

Currently, the Sex Discrimination Act allows bodies established for religious purposes to refuse to provide facilities, goods or services where consistent with their religion’s doctrines, tenets or beliefs or where necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of their followers.

 

Will Church halls be forced to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies?

No. It will continue to be consistent with existing anti-discrimination laws. Religious exemptions under the Bill and the Sex Discrimination Act apply to facilities, goods and services provided by religious organisations. For example, a mosque, synagogue, temple or church hall used by a congregation for important religious rites could be refused as a venue for a same-sex wedding.

 

Will the Bill allow religious exemptions for commercial businesses?

No. All commercial businesses and other non-religious organisations must continue to uphold current anti-discrimination laws and cannot unlawfully discriminate against couples, including same-sex couples.

This means that commercial businesses or individual employees working at these businesses cannot discriminate against a customer on the basis of their race, skin colour, sex, religion, political opinion, nationality, age, marital or relationship status, impairment, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or other protected ground.

 

Can civil celebrants refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?

No. All civil celebrants must uphold anti-discrimination laws and cannot unlawfully discriminate against couples, including same-sex couples. Existing civil celebrants that wish to conduct marriages in accordance with religious beliefs can elect to be registered as religious marriage celebrants.  

 

What is a ‘religious marriage celebrant’?

Currently, the Marriage Act recognises ministers of religion from large established religions but requires ministers of religion from small independent and emerging churches to register in a very similar way to civil celebrants.

To distinguish from civil celebrants, the Bill creates a new category of ‘religious marriage celebrants’ for ministers of religion from small and emerging religions that are not recognised under the Marriage Act.

Marriage celebrants who are already registered whose religious beliefs would not allow them to solemnise a same-sex marriage have 90 days to apply to be registered as a religious marriage celebrant. Civil celebrant associations estimate that approximately as few as 3% of all current marriage celebrants would prefer to be registered as a religious marriage celebrant.

The new category will only be available to existing civil celebrants.

 

Can religious marriage celebrants refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?

Yes. The new categories of religious marriage celebrants can refuse to perform a ceremony where their religious beliefs would not allow them to do so.

 

Will religious sacraments be impacted by the Bill?

No. Religious rites and practices are not affected by the Bill.

 

Does the Bill remove the ability of ministers of religion to practice their religious beliefs? Will churches be forced to marry same-sex couples?

No. The Bill allows for ministers of religion and churches to continue to freely practice their religion and express their religious beliefs about marriage.

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