Last week, I spent three days listening to the public hearings which were held as part of a Senate Committee inquiry into an Exposure Draft of legislation to amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples amongst those eligible to be married.
Specifically, the inquiry was looking at proposed ‘religious exemptions’ in the draft legislation, and whether they were sufficient to protect encroachments upon religious freedom. We discussed the inquiry in more detail in a previous post, but essentially, the legislation proposed that ministers of religion, civil celebrants and religious organisations would be permitted to decline to participate in a same-sex wedding, but that anyone else (including wedding service providers like florists and bakers, and pre- and post- marriage counsellors) would not be afforded any protections.
As a general comment, these protections did not go far enough. After all, the right to freedom of religion is not one which belongs only to “professional” people of faith, but rather to each and every individual regardless of what they do as a job.
To suggest that anti-discrimination legislation applies unequally, depending on whether you’re a priest or a lay person, is itself a discriminatory idea.
I thought that would have been obvious to any fair-minded person who considered the legislation.
What was alarming, however, was that those same-sex marriage advocates who made submissions to, and appeared before, the Senate Committee hearings were of a completely different view. Unanimously, they declared that the proposed protections – limited as they were – went way too far.
As part of their submission, two of those groups, just.equal and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), commissioned a survey of Australia’s LGBTI community respondents were asked their views on religious freedoms. There were so many respondents that it was described the largest survey of LGBTI Australians ever conducted.
In the survey, a number of scenarios were posed. Respondents were asked about ministers of religion, military chaplains, civil celebrants, employees of births, deaths and marriages, and private businesses and religious organisations providing hall rental, catering and other services related to the wedding industry.
For ministers of religion, 59 percent of those surveyed disagreed that they should have the right to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. This was the only “occupation” where the LGBTI community felt there could be room to move when it came to allowing people to live by their beliefs. In all other scenarios, opposition was above 90%.
Let that sink in for a moment.
More than half of the LGBTI community think that a minister of religion should not be exempt from celebrating a same-sex marriage. And more than 90% believe that if, for example, a Christian school hires out its chapel for the weddings of former students, that it should have no right to refuse to have a same-sex wedding held in the school chapel.
Some of you reading might believe this to be appropriate. But do we really want to be a society which forces people to act against their beliefs? Should a Muslim printer be forced to print images of Mohamed? Should the fashion designers who have refused to design clothing for First Lady Melania Trump be forced to do so? Would a homosexual baker be forced to decorate a cake with the verses from Leviticus regarding homosexuality? Should people really be required to use their creative gifts to promote a message with which they disagree?
Of course not. In a civil society, people should not be made to act against their conscience, because the freedom of thought, conscience and belief is a fundamental human right.
But the same-sex marriage lobby wants to change this. They are not content to “live and let live.”
We are told that same-sex marriage is all about promoting “tolerance,” but the stance being taken is not tolerant at all. Instead, this is how “tolerance” is redefined when marriage is redefined.
Monica Doumit, Catholic Talk contributor
The current proposed bills to legislate same-sex marriage contain a narrow exemption; a religious figure, a representative of faith cannot be compelled to preside at a same-sex marriage. Religious freedom is preserved at this narrow level. It is obvious, however, that once we legislate same-sex marriage, there will be a new campaign based on litigation and anti-discrimination law to extend the provisions and I remind you of the nature of ideology. Ideologies, and particularly ideologies that are winning ultimately do not tolerate or enshrine dissident institutions.