“We don’t need to water down anti-discrimination law to keep some people happy” - Bill Shorten.
By
Ben Winsor

6 Oct 2016 - 6:26 PM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2016 - 6:26 PM

With the progressive march towards same-sex marriage appearing more and more inevitable in Australia, those opposing marriage equality have found a new battle to wage.

Both John Howard and George Christensen have come out and said that in the event that same-sex marriage is passed, there should be an exemption to people who could be ‘tangentially affected’ by the move.

Those people include photographers, venue owners, civil celebrants and cake makers who could be forced under current anti-discrimination laws to provide their services for same-sex weddings.

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“What about the person of faith who is a wedding photographer or a wedding cake maker or owns a particular venue that just doesn't agree with same-sex marriage and that venue's called upon for a reception?” Queensland Liberal MP George Christensen asked on Lateline.

Allowing such a conscientious objection would require a change to current anti-discrimination laws, which prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the provision of goods and services.

Religious bodies, however, would be covered by a current exemption in Section 37 of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Both major parties support keeping this current exemption, allowing religious bodies to reject requests to perform same-sex marriage services.

The Labor Party has ruled out any change to the Sex Discrimination Act to create an exemption for photographers or other service providers.

A spokesman for the Australian Greens told us they don’t support any new exemptions either.

They went a step further, however, saying they supported repealing current exemptions for religious bodies from the Sex Discrimination Act, even for religious ceremonies.

However, it was unlikely to become an issue in practice, they said, because they didn’t foresee same-sex couples wanting to be married by a minister or imam who didn’t support their relationship.

As Howard and Christensen's comments demonstrate, the Liberal Party may be split on the issue.

Attorney General Geoge Brandis is a known supporter of same-sex marriage, but has said that the issue of discrimination legation is a matter for federal cabinet to consider.

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