Turn­bull flatly re­jects same-sex mar­riage bill that le­galises dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Paul Karp

The gov­ern­ment “would not coun­te­nance” le­gal­is­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex wed­dings and a bill to do so would have “vir­tu­ally no prospect” of pass­ing par­lia­ment, Mal­colm Turn­bull has said in an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­buke of con­ser­va­tives de­mand­ing the roll­back of anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

As con­ser­va­tive Coali­tion MPs and sen­a­tors ral­lied around the same-sex mar­riage bill re­leased on Mon­day by Lib­eral senator James Pater­son, Turn­bull slapped them down ahead of the re­lease of mar­riage law sur­vey re­sults at 10am on Wed­nes­day.

Turn­bull’s in­ter­ven­tion con­trasted with calls from Tony Ab­bott to do more to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom than the Dean Smith mar­riage bill and “en­trench the right to dis­sent from any new or­tho­doxy”.

The Pater­son bill has been crit­i­cised by lawyers, mar­riage equal­ity ad­vo­cates and the at­tor­ney gen­eral, Ge­orge Bran­dis, for al­low­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex wed­dings by com­mer­cial ser­vice providers.

On Mon­day Turn­bull de­scribed the Smith bill as a good start­ing point, and at a press con­fer­ence in Manila on Tues­day he went fur­ther, warn­ing: “I don’t be­lieve Aus­tralians would wel­come, and cer­tainly the gov­ern­ment would not coun­te­nance, mak­ing le­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion that is il­le­gal, that is un­law­ful, to­day.”

Asked about a bill that would al­low busi­nesses to say “no gay wed­dings ser­viced here” – in ref­er­ence to Pater­son’s pro­posal – Turn­bull said: “I think it would have vir­tu­ally no prospect of get­ting through the par­lia­ment.”

Smith based his bill on the rec­om­men­da­tions of a Se­nate com­mit­tee in­quiry. It is co-signed by four Lib­eral sup­port­ers of mar­riage equal­ity, en­joys sup­port from La­bor and qual­i­fied sup­port from the Greens, who in­tend to seek amend­ments.

On Tues­day Bill Shorten promised to work with Turn­bull to leg­is­late mar­riage equal­ity “as soon as pos­si­ble” af­ter a yes vote, say­ing La­bor would “give the num­bers along with those in the gov­ern­ment who sup­port it, to stare down the con­ser­va­tives seek­ing to de­lay mar­riage equal­ity”.

“I prom­ise Aus­tralians that as soon as the re­sult is known, we’ll be push­ing for the Smith bill.”

The Smith bill al­lows re­li­gious min­is­ters, cur­rent cel­e­brants who reg­is­ter to be­come re­li­gious cel­e­brants and re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions to refuse to con­duct or serve same-sex wed­dings. Smith has said he in­tends to in­tro­duce his bill as early as Thurs­day.

Turn­bull said the gov­ern­ment was keep­ing its prom­ise to give ev­ery­one a say on the mar­riage law, af­ter which Coali­tion par­lia­men­tar­i­ans would have a free vote.

“If there is a yes vote an­nounced to­mor­row, the pri­vate mem­ber’s bill will be de­bated and peo­ple will be free to move what­ever amend­ments they want and they will be de­bated and voted on ... and they won’t be ... con­strained by any party pol­icy,” he said.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Equal­ity Cam­paign, Tier­nan Brady, said: “If the peo­ple vote yes to­mor­row they will be vot­ing for fair­ness and equal­ity for LGBTI peo­ple and that LGBTI peo­ple should be treated the same as ev­ery­body else by the law of the land.

“To try and use that mo­ment to ac­tu­ally in­tro­duce new dis­crim­i­na­tion and to un­ravel ex­ist­ing anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions ... is lit­er­ally the op­po­site of what the peo­ple will have voted for.

“In the event of a yes vote, the mo­men­tum that will flow from the will of the peo­ple will be ir­re­sistible and will sweep all be­fore it.”

Brady said it was good that “across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum”, from the prime min­is­ter, cross­bench and op­po­si­tion, “peo­ple are clearly of the mind it is time to get this done”.

A Coali­tion for Mar­riage spokes­woman said the no cam­paign found Turn­bull’s com­ments “sur­pris­ing” be­cause he had re­cently said “he be­lieved more strongly in re­li­gious free­dom than in same-sex mar­riage”.

“Dur­ing the Se­nate se­lect com­mit­tee hear­ings ear­lier this year and ... through­out the cam­paign, many Aus­tralians have raised con­cerns about the con­se­quences of re­defin­ing mar­riage and these have been ig­nored in the Smith bill,” she said.

“What­ever [Wed­nes­day’s] re­sult, we will con­tinue to do what we can to en­sure the free­doms of speech and be­lief are pro­tected for all Aus­tralians.”

Be­fore Turn­bull’s in­ter­ven­tion the in­fra­struc­ture min­is­ter, Dar­ren Ch­ester, and back­bench MP Craig Kelly had added to calls to de­bate the bills in the Coali­tion party room when it next meets in two weeks.

Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ters in­clud­ing Matt Cana­van, Michael Sukkar, Zed Se­selja and An­gus Tay­lor have been vo­cal in sup­port of the Pater­son bill.

But se­nior min­is­ters in­clud­ing Bran­dis, the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter, Si­mon Birm­ing­ham, and in­flu­en­tial con­ser­va­tive Mathias Cor­mann have held the line that par­lia­ment, not the

party room, should con­sider which bill to use and pos­si­ble amend­ments.

Ch­ester told ABC News the joint party room would dis­cuss mar­riage and “peo­ple will come to a fi­nal po­si­tion on the pri­vate mem­ber’s bill even­tu­ally brought for­ward”.

The Lib­eral MP Craig Kelly told Guardian Aus­tralia he ex­pected a de­bate in the next party room meet­ing in two weeks “about which bill the Coali­tion will bring to par­lia­ment”, al­though Smith was en­ti­tled to sep­a­rately bring his pri­vate mem­ber’s bill.

The Lib­eral senator David Fawcett said Pater­son’s bill “re­flects more fully” than the Smith bill the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Se­nate com­mit­tee in­quiry into same-sex mar­riage that he chaired.

“Aus­tralia has never leg­is­lated to pro­tect re­li­gious free­dom com­pre­hen­sively,” Fawcett said. “The James Pater­son bill is more com­pre­hen­sive, and it is my pre­ferred start­ing point.”

Fawcett said he wanted “sen­si­ble grown-up con­ver­sa­tions” about the leg­isla­tive process ahead, and he would en­cour­age all par­ties to dis­cuss which bill to use “not nec­es­sar­ily in the de­bat­ing cham­ber of the Se­nate”.

Pho­to­graph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Mal­colm Turn­bull said the gov­ern­ment will ‘not coun­te­nance’ le­gal­is­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against same-sex wed­dings.

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