Sunday, 6 August 2017

Senator Dean Smith's marriage equality bill is a good bill

Senator Dean Smith's draft bill to amend the Marriage Act - the Marriage Amendment Definition and Religious Freedoms Bill -  is a good bill. I like it.

What it does:

  • Changes the definition of marriage, including in the ceremony, to 2 people from a man and a woman.
  • This equally applies to overseas marriages entered into before the amendment (like mine) as well as those entered into after the change in Australia.
  • Allows for ministers of religion (but not celebrants who are not ministers of religion) to not marry people based on the ministers' religious beliefs.
  • Allows celebrants to take the objection- if they become ministers of religion and they register their change. 
  • Allows defence chaplains, following a similar procedure, to also take objection based on conscience.
  • Allows churches to refuse to have ceremonies or receptions on their grounds, consistent with the approach in the Sex Discrimination Act.
  • Has a definite starting date- which is generally when the bill receives the Royal assent, i.e., signed by the Governor-General in Council.
What it doesn't do is that it doesn't allow bakers, florists, chauffeurs and the like to not provide goods or a service to the couples in question based on conscience- unless they can show that they are part of a religious establishment. What the bill does in this way is to be entirely consistent with the Sex Discrimination Act, a piece of legislation that is consistent with Australia's international obligations.

If passed, the bill - by amending the definition of marriage, and allowing the recognition of overseas marriages- will make sure that people who married overseas and cannot get divorced here, like Fiona Kumari Campbell, can get divorced, and get Australia out of trouble with the UN Human Rights Committee.

Fingers crossed that Coalition members see sense and allow the bill to be debated.

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