You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you? After earlier reports that conservatives in the Coalition, anticipating a victory of the Yes campaign, had been prepping their own same-sex marriage bill, The Australian has landed some intel about what said bill actually contains.
It always pays to be healthily skeptical of the polls, especially in a day and age where they’re constantly being overturned, but things are looking pretty damn good for the Yes side of the same-sex marriage debate. With that in mind, a number of conservatives in the Coalition have tried to jump the gun by preparing a far more stringently defined bill than the moderate one sponsored by Liberal senator Dean Smith.
The 34-page bill, which is set to be released today by former IPA lackey and current conservative senator James Paterson, would override federal and territory anti-discrimination and freedom-of-speech laws to protect those who are opposed to same-sex marriage.
For whatever reason, the bill anticipates there will be an absolute deluge of civil lawsuits against people who refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. It offers protection to those who provide services for weddings, like “florists, bakers, hotels or function centres,” but only as far as their services relate to same-sex weddings. For example, a florist could refuse to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, but they couldn’t refuse to sell flowers to an LGBT-identifying person generally.
It also extends broad protections to those who hold a “conscientious” opposition to same-sex marriage beyond their religious belief. You can read that as it is: giving people a fairly broad right to discriminate against LGBTQI people for… you know, whatever reason they might have. It’s an extraordinarily broad remit – especially from a side who are fixated on the so-called ‘slippery slope’ of same-sex marriage.
Okay, whatever. It was long-expected that the conservatives were going to try ramming through their own version of a SSM bill if their respectful campaign went south, and it’s kind of up to Malcolm Turnbull if he’s going to actually show some leadership on the issue and not kowtow to the demands of the sore losers.
But it’s not just a matter of protecting the rights of homophobic florists that the conservative bill is concerned with. Nope, they had to sneak more in. According to the Oz, the bill also contains a so-called ‘safe schools’ clause, which allows parents to yank their kids out of classes which are teaching things contrary to a ‘traditional’ view of marriage.
Of course, that really doesn’t have much to do with same-sex marriage at all – it’s just a sneaky way of giving parents an out from the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, which conservatives argue is some kind of cultural Marxist scheme to undermine Western civilisation by making everyone gay and horny.
Obviously, Australia actually didn’t answer a survey about Safe Schools – they answered a survey about same-sex marriage, with a very clear question. As much as the Coalition for Marriage wants us to believe otherwise, nothing about the postal vote has given them the remit to undermine Safe Schools, and their attempt to piggyback an attack on the program in a same-sex marriage bill is a pretty dog act. It’s the core thing that makes this bill rotten – and proves it’s not just about merely protecting a difference of opinion.
Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, a marriage equality advocate, told The Australian in a not-so-subtle backhand against his conservative colleagues that the No campaign had twisted the debate to include things that “have nothing to do with the Marriage Act”:
What we’ve seen during this debate is the conflation of a whole range of issues which frankly have nothing to do with the Marriage Act. And they can be debated. Protecting religious freedoms is something that Liberals feel very strongly about. But they shouldn’t be confused with this bill which is designed to deliver marriage equality.
So there we go. It doesn’t look like the announcement of the result of the postal vote is going to be the end of this whole sordid affair – and it’ll be on Turnbull to snatch back the reins of power and ensure the passage of a marriage equality if indeed the Yes vote triumphs.
It’s worth noting that this conservative bill likely won’t have the numbers to get through the hostile Senate, given that Labor and the Greens support the moderate bill from Smith. It could just be posturing to the conservative base by promising to roll back anti-discrimination law, but it leaves to be seen what will eventually happen.
When it comes down to it, it’s worth remembering the obvious: many of those who drafted and support this alternative bill do not want same-sex marriage to happen at all. That should give everyone involved some pause for thought. Let’s see what happens on Wednesday.