Re­li­gious ex­emp­tions should be ex­tended to all

The Australian - - COMMENTARY -

Any ex­emp­tions for min­is­ters of re­li­gion and re­li­gious bod­ies in a same­sex mar­riage law will not be suf­fi­cient to pro­tect free­dom of re­li­gious be­lief and prac­tice un­less they ex­tend to all mem­bers of re­li­gious bod­ies and or­gan­i­sa­tions — not just to min­is­ters of re­li­gion but to all ad­her­ents of those re­li­gions.

It is in­con­sis­tent and il­log­i­cal to cre­ate ex­emp­tions for min­is­ters of re­li­gion but not ex­tend them to in­di­vid­ual re­li­gious ad­her­ents.

In re­spect of be­liefs about who can con­tract mar­riage, there is no dis­tinc­tion be­tween min­is­ters and those to whom they min­is­ter; the be­liefs of a re­li­gious body nor­mally de­fine mem­bers of that body or or­gan­i­sa­tion, not sim­ply the min­is­ters.

It would be quite in­con­sis­tent if a min­is­ter of re­li­gion could refuse to cel­e­brate a wed­ding be­tween two per­sons of the same sex, while an ad­her­ent of the same re­li­gion — hold­ing pre­cisely the same views — could be pros­e­cuted by a same-sex cou­ple (un­der the Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act) if that ad­her­ent re­fuses to pro­vide goods or ser­vices to the cou­ple.

Sim­ply cre­at­ing ex­emp­tions for churches and min­is­ters of re­li­gion, but not for ad­her­ents of those churches, will not pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom in any mean­ing­ful way. Joseph Parkin­son, di­rec­tor, L. J. Goody Bioethics Cen­tre, Mt Hawthorn, WA I re­mem­ber the in­tro­duc­tion of “no fault” divorce and the out­cry that it would de­stroy the fam­ily, the very foun­da­tion of our so­ci­ety. Today, few would want to re­turn to the old “fault” pro­vi­sions of divorce law.

We are now be­ing told that al­low­ing gay peo­ple to marry will de­stroy the fam­ily. Gay peo­ple de­serve to be treated like the rest of us who were born non-gay. Colin White, Townsville, Qld In the case of a suc­cess­ful Yes cam­paign, the law will re­quire ev­ery­body to hold the same view about what the word mar­riage means, per­haps with some spe­cific re­li­gious and con­science ex­cep­tions.

Those who fall out­side those specif­i­cally leg­is­lated pro­tec­tions, will not be shielded from lit­i­ga­tion. The re­al­ity is that a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion will never ac­cept the LGBTI view of mar­riage, par­tic­u­larly those who be­lieve strongly in tra- di­tional mar­riage. When will we ever wake up to the sim­ple fact that we can­not leg­is­late be­lief?

Same-sex mar­riage will only in­crease dis­cord in so­ci­ety, in a so­ci­ety that looks in­creas­ingly for a sta­bil­is­ing an­chor. Peter R. Tre­denick, Padding­ton, Qld Judg­ing by com­ments made in Saturday’s let­ters to the ed­i­tor, a per­son may le­git­i­mately op­pose changes to the Mar­riage Act with­out hav­ing any an­i­mus to­wards same-sex at­tracted peo­ple. Nor does love en­tail agree­ment with some­one else’s ide­ol­ogy or life­style.

The bul­ly­ing and in­tim­i­da­tion di­rected against those vot­ing No is ev­i­denced by the re­luc­tance of many to openly iden­tify with this po­si­tion. I doubt that any­one propos­ing to vote Yes feels the need to keep quiet about their po­si­tion; they wear their views like a badge of hon­our. Bruce Arm­strong, Buderim, Qld Mal­colm Turn­bull says he places re­li­gious free­dom ahead of same-sex mar­riage and prom­ises us he will en­sure such free­dom is en­shrined in the SSM leg­is­la­tion (“PM’s fo­cus on free- dom for re­li­gion”, 16/9). But at the last elec­tion, Turn­bull also promised a plebiscite on the is­sue. Where is it?

The fact is Turn­bull can’t guar­an­tee any­thing; he is pow­er­less. So what if Bill Shorten prom­ises the same thing with bi­par­ti­san­ship on the is­sue? Would you be­lieve a bloke who re­fuses a full plebiscite?

If it was not good enough for the SSM leg­is­la­tion to be on the table be­fore we cast a vote on the mat­ter, it is a sec­ond thought for our politi­cians and none of them can be trusted to act in our best in­ter­est. John Ge­orge, Ter­ri­gal, NSW Ian Hunter (Let­ters, 16/9) wants to know “what sort of big­otry is driv­ing this anti-gay mar­riage cam­paign”. Why can’t we re­de­fine mar­riage, or de­con­struct it, or shake it up a bit? The most com­pelling rea­son to leave mar­riage be­tween a man and a woman undis­turbed is be­cause it is the ideal state in which to bring up chil­dren.

Chil­dren do best psy­cho­log­i­cally and aca­dem­i­cally when raised in this en­vi­ron­ment. To sup­port this is not big­otry, but to ad­vo­cate for the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren and for so­ci­ety. Dale El­lis, Tra­van­core, Vic

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