Politics

Here’s What Marriage Equality Will Look Like If Conservatives Get Their Way

"Sexual relations should only occur within a marriage"

Liberal Senator James Paterson has revealed a proposed bill that he says would protect religious freedom in the event of a successful Yes vote in the marriage equality postal survey and hoo boy, is it ugly.

This comes ahead of what’s expected to be a showdown in parliament, after a likely Yes victory on Wednesday. If the Yes vote wins, moderates who believe in narrow exemptions that would apply to religious celebrants, will be facing off against conservatives who believe “protection” from same-sex marriage should extend beyond the church and into schools and businesses.

Long story short, instead of ending discrimination against same-sex couples, Paterson’s bill would entrench discrimination by allowing a range of businesses to refuse service to same-sex weddings. On top of that, it doesn’t even change the definition of marriage; it simply adds same-sex marriage as another, separate definition of marriage that a person could choose to believe in.

There are a heap of nasty little surprises in the bill, so let’s dive in shall we?

Here’s The List Of People Who Could Discriminate Against Gay Couples

Marriage bill

The list of people who could refuse to have anything to do with a same-sex marriage includes the usual suspects — bakers, florists, caterers — but it would also include transport providers, which means a taxi driver could potentially refuse to pick people up from a same-sex wedding. It also includes printers, dress makers, relationship counsellors and photographers.

These people could all refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding if they hold a “relevant belief” about the definition of marriage. What is a relevant belief? Strap in, folks, because this is where it gets even uglier.

What Is A Relevant Belief?

Marriage bill

Relevant beliefs include the belief that marriage is between a man a woman, that only a mother and father are best placed to raise a child, and that sex should only occur within marriage.

But That’s Not All

“Relevant beliefs” also include the idea that gender is binary and set at birth and that same-sex relationships are, in general, just plain wrong. Nice.

It Doesn’t Actually Change The Definition Of Marriage

Instead of simply changing the Marriage Act to allow any two adults to marry, the bill inserts a second, separate definition of marriage, allowing you to choose which one you subscribe to.

It Extends Well Beyond Marriage

Marriage Bill

The bill basically has a “safe schools” provision, which would allow a parent to pull a child out of class if they don’t like the material being taught.

The Bill Allows Celebrants To Ignore Different Gender Identities

Marriage Bill

The bill would also allow government employees, like those at Births, Deaths & Marriages, to refuse to register same-sex weddings. The bill would also override any state or territory laws, meaning that even if you have a super-progressive state government, you won’t be protected from these laws.

So basically, this bill a sweeping attempt to roll back anti-discrimination laws in the name of “free speech”. It uses the (probably) impending legislation of same-sex marriage to launch a full-throated attack on anti-discrimination laws after conservatives failed to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. It’s bad, real bad.

Is There Any Good News?

Yes! This bill has very little chance of passing if the Yes vote succeeds on Wednesday. The government doesn’t even have a majority at the moment, let alone a majority of MPs would would support this bill in a conscience vote.

The Yes campaign has already vowed to fight this bill if it is ever actually put forward, and Liberal Senator Dean Smith has vowed to introduce his own bill, with much narrower exemptions, into the Senate on Thursday.

Spokesperson for the Yes campaign, Alex Greenwich, told Junkee that the Paterson bill would be a betrayal of the Australian people if the Yes vote succeeds.

“The Yes campaign has worked very hard to bring Australians together during the survey. This is a bill that seeks to divide us, not to unite us,” he said. “It seeks to entrench discrimination. People were voting for marriage equality during the survey, they were not voting for a licence to discriminate.”

Smith’s bill would get the support of Labor, the Greens, NXT and a handful of Liberal senators, which is more than enough to pass the Senate, and possibly enough to pass the House of Representatives.