Sunday, 8 January 2017

13 January last day submssions to Senate committee about marriage bill

13 January is the last day to make submissions to a Senate Committee about the Government's exposure draft Bill to amend the Marriage Act. This is the draft, if ever there is to be the plebiscite, that the Government is saying it wants to put forward.

The Committee is clear- submissions are ONLY to be about the terms of reference, not about whether allowing equal marriage laws or about the plebiscite is a good or bad thing.

Please read the terms of reference carefully before making your submission. The committee has resolved that it will only accept submissions strictly addressing its terms of reference, with a particular focus on the following areas:
  • the proposed exemptions in the Exposure Draft for ministers of religion, marriage celebrants and religious bodies and organisations to refuse to conduct or solemnise marriages, and the extent to which those exemptions prevent encroachment upon religious freedoms; 
  • the nature and effect of the proposed amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984;
  • whether there should be any consequential amendments to this bill, or any other Act, and, if so, the nature and effect of those consequential amendments.
Substantive submissions that explore the technical aspects of the terms of reference will be published, however the committee does not have the resources or time to consider short statements expressing support either for or against same-sex marriage.  As such, these statements will be treated as correspondence and not published.

The committee has also resolved that it will not publish form or campaign letters, or petitions, received to the inquiry.

 

My comments about the Bill


In my view it is fair enough that Ministers of Religion can have exemption to marry those who don't fit their religious views. While I am of the view that Ministers of religion should not discriminate, our constitutional theory and society is based on a balancing of interests, and that includes the freedom of religion.

However, this exemption under the Bill in my view is not necessary in any event. This is because s.47 of the Marriage Act  allows a Minister of religion to refuse to solemnise any marriage.

However, there should not be the ability of civil celebrants to refuse to solemnise marriage ceremonies because of their religious views. Quite simply, they hold those positions on the part of the State. If the State is of the view that there should not be discrimination, they they should not discriminate.

The last exemption allows religious organisations or bodies to discriminate in the provision of facilities, goods and services. This exemption is not needed. Religious bodies can already discriminate in the provision of goods and services under the Sex Discrimination Act. The provision of facilities is in essence the provision of a service, i.e., the use of the facilities, so it seems that this provision is not needed.

Submissions can be made here:

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 3228
Fax: 02 6277 5829
samesex.marriage.sen@aph.gov.au

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