In the next few days, Catholics and other people of faith have an important opportunity to have their voices heard about the impacts of same-sex marriage on religious freedom.
Towards the end of last year, a Senate inquiry into the religious freedom aspects of draft same-sex marriage legislation proposed by the Commonwealth Government was announced. The timefreame is tight, with submissions due this Friday, 13 January.
Under the current proposal, the only people who will be afforded any type of protection under the legislation will be ministers of religion and civil celebrants who do not wish to officiate at a same-sex wedding, and religious bodies and organisations which do not want to make their facilities available for same-sex weddings.
Importantly, there is no protection offered for the religious freedom of ordinary men and women of faith who do not wish to participate in same-sex weddings.
In the United States and other places, we have heard of countless cases of bakers, photographers, florists and owners of reception venues who have been sued, fined and even forced to close their businesses because they did not want to participate in same-sex weddings. In other cases, people have been denied employment or been expelled from university for expressing a view about marriage, and parents have been told by courts that they are not permitted to remove their children from sex education classes which portray homosexual sexual activity as normal.
From these examples, and many more like it, it is abundantly clear that there are real threats to religious freedom when marriage is redefined. These are not limited to ministers of religion and marriage celebrants, nor do they stop after the “event” of the wedding is over.
Despite the limited amount of time for submissions to be prepared, it is important that the inquiry hears from regular Australians, men and women of faith, who are concerned about the impact changing the definition of marriage would have on religious freedom
Please do consider making your voice heard. The length of your submission does not matter, but it is crucial that the Senate hears that there is more than the rights of a handful of people at stake.
Monica Doumit, Catholic Talk contributor