George Brandis Wants A Broad Religious Freedom Statement In The SSM Bill

Attorney General George Brandis has called for the upcoming same-sex marriage bill to include a “declaratory statement” on the right of Australians to practice, teach, and observe elements of their faith, telling Q&A he believes ‘No’ voters need “reassurance” that their rights will be upheld.

Discussing a potential amendment to the bill put forward by Liberal Dean Smith, which already protects religious figures from ordaining marriages that go against their faith, Brandis said it’d be worthwhile echoing portions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In particular, the ICCPR bears a passage calling on participating states to respect the right of individuals to practice their faith as they choose, as well as having “respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

“If we introduce those words they’ll make no difference whatsoever to the right of same sex people to marry, but they might provide a level of reassurance to those who were not convinced to vote yes,” Brandis said.

It is unclear exactly how much of the ICCPR text Brandis, a vocal proponent of the ‘Yes’ vote, would like to pilfer. However, it has been posited that adopting the latter portion addressing the religious rights of parents could potentially allow children to be withdrawn from classes that address same-sex marriage.

Greens Senator Janet Rice, who was also on the Q&A panel, said that such an amendment was needless, and that the Smith bill “has got more than enough religious protections in it.”

Regardless, Brandis isn’t the only Coalition politician pushing for a declaratory statement in the bill. Prominent conservatives Treasurer Scott Morrison and Senator Matt Canavan have advocated for the move as a concession to the millions of Australians who voted ‘No’.

The bill will be debated next week.

Catch Brandis’ discussion below: