Law council slams ‘discrimination’ provisions to marriage equality bill

The changes would further engrain discrimination, the organization claims

Law council slams ‘discrimination’ provisions to marriage equality bill
The Law Council of Australia has rejected provisions of the Turnbull Government’s same-sex marriage bill saying that the changes would further engrain discrimination.

The lawyers’ group, which represents 16 Australian state and territory law societies and bar associations, told a Parliamentary inquiry in Melbourne that it opposed giving civil celebrants and religious service providers rights to serve same-sex weddings. The law should apply to service providers since commercial activities are not part of protections under religious freedoms, the organisation argued.

“The exclusion of same-sex couples from the Marriage Act denies them a right afforded to all other Australians and is inconsistent with the right to be free from discrimination,” said Fiona McLeod SC, president of the Law Council of Australia.

The council supports freedom of religion and allowing ministers of religion to conduct religious marriage ceremonies aligns with their religions’ doctrines, but it does not support extending this to civil celebrants and religious providers which are not specifically defined.

“Extending this exemption to civil celebrants discriminates against same-sex couples without any proper basis. The marriage ceremonies that civil celebrants perform are secular, not religious. They do not merit the same protection of freedom of religion and have no other proper basis for exemption,” McLeod said.

The council also opposed the proposed exemption for “religious bodies and organisations” in providing facilities, goods or services, saying the change could be abused.

“This proposed exemption would erode fundamental principles of non-discrimination and represent a disproportionate extension of existing exemptions to discrimination laws for ‘religious bodies’ in defined and limited circumstances,” McLeod said. “Further, an organisation not established for religious purposes, but connected with a religious body, which provides commercial services incidental to the solemnisation of marriage – such as, photographers and caterers – should not be able to rely on the exemptions to unlawfully discriminate against couples on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“There is an important distinction between freedom of religion and the freedom to express one’s religious beliefs. The freedom to express one’s religious beliefs must be carefully balanced where it intrudes upon other rights, such as the fundamental right to be free from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Related stories:
Aussie firm names new diversity leader
Law firms recognised as employers of choice for gender equality

Free newsletter

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter service and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest breaking news, cutting edge opinion, and expert analysis affecting both your business and the industry as whole.

Please enter your email address below and click on Sign Up for daily newsletters from Australasian Lawyer.

Recent articles & video

Allens assists on $1.4bn capital raising applying ASX temporary class waiver

Hall & Wilcox plays major role in assets acquisition by fintech investor

CEO and managing partner parts ways with DWF

Authenticity and trustworthiness are critical to professional success, says G+T partner

Global healthcare company receives $1.2bn equity boost with HSF’s help

US bar comments on nationwide protests after George Floyd death

Most Read Articles

Lander & Rogers beefs up technology and digital practice with new partner

Baker McKenzie’s IPTech team gets an upgrade with new partner

Authenticity and trustworthiness are critical to professional success, says G+T partner

Gadens helps e-sports guru get in the game on $4.2m sale