Equality advocates have described Attorney-General, George Brandis’, plan to entrench freedom of religion and conscience into the Marriage Act as a potential “lawyer’s picnic” that could override state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

It has been reported that Senator Brandis is considering amending Senator Dean Smith’s marriage bill to incorporate word-for-word the first clause of article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

Just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said,

“The only conceivable reason for inserting these rights into the Marriage Act would be to override state and federal laws that prevent discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people and others who fall foul of religious beliefs.”

“Freedom of religion and conscience are important rights, but the appropriate place to deal with them is in a stand alone law that can define how they interact with existing discrimination protections.”

“Senator Brandis’ proposal risks clogging the courts with claims that religion freedom trumps other rights, and would end up being a lawyer’s picnic.”

“Much greater consideration should be given to how Australia protects freedom of religion and conscience, and the issue should not be used as a way to slow down marriage equality.”

Mr Croome also expressed concern about Senator Brandis’ proposal to allow all civil celebrants to refuse their services on the basis of religion.

“Civil celebrants are delegated by the government to perform an official duty and should not be allowed to shirk that duty because of their personal religious beliefs.”

“Giving civil celebrants the right to refuse their services on the grounds of religion or personal conscience blurs the boundary between church and state.”
Rodney Croome, just.equal