I don’t pretend to understand what goes on in the minds of most of our politicians (if I was forced to guess, I would put my money on either sustained screaming or some sort of dial-up noise), but I reckon an ordinary person would have a few misgivings about what they were doing if it required them to roll back anti-discrimination laws. Apparently, that is not an issue for Liberal senator James Paterson.
Seemingly not content with forcing us to go through a postal survey process that, at best, was a humiliating exercise and, at worst, saw a massive uptick in instances of violent, obscene homophobia from Australia‘s recently empowered bigots, Paterson is proposing that if we do legislate marriage equality, we simultaneously make sure those who don’t agree with it don’t run afoul of those pesky laws we have to discourage discrimination.
Paterson, in competition with another bill put forward by colleague Dean Smith, this morning released the draft of a marriage equality bill that contains provisions explicitly allowing people to choose whether or not they want to provide goods services for a wedding if they deem to the wedding to be too, well… gay.
Presumably to reassure voters who believe that marriage equality is the final straw in the culture war and after it passes Australia will become a bacchanalian, orgiastic hellscape of debauchery and Christ-denying, the bill also makes you immune to anti-discrimination laws if you’re discriminating in the course of espousing a number of views, including that “the family structure of a man and a woman united in marriage with their children is a fundamental building block of human society, and this family structure has significant advantages for the nurture and raising of children“, “sexual relations should only occur within a marriage,” and “the gender difference and complementarity of men and women is an inherent and fundamental feature of human society“.
In addition to just being very weird in its specificity, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to discover no such allowances anywhere in the bill for those Australians who want to decline to provide goods or services related to a wedding on the basis of their personal objection to, say, straight marriages or religious marriages. I wonder why that is.
The bill also takes shots at trans people, allowing celebrants to completely ignore what someone’s legal or presented sex or gender is and decide “whether or not [they are] a man or a woman.” That definitely won’t be abused at all, for sure.
Predictably (and rightfully), the punters are not having a bar of it.
So straight religious people can discriminate against me without consequence, but I can't do the same to straight religious people?
That isn't equality, James.
— Jack Lattimore (@latts92) November 12, 2017
I know it's all a ploy, and you expect a long career ahead of you, but "attempted to introduce apartheid" won't ever settle down to a tidy footnote in the bio.
— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) November 12, 2017
Paterson’s bill “increasing protections for people opposed to SSM” according to some media. No, it’s legislating discrimination against LGBTIQ people
— Bridie Jabour (@bkjabour) November 12, 2017
The Paterson bill is the last bit of evidence you might have needed showing moral disgust directed at gay people is a major motivation of some in the anti-SSM camp.
— Rick Morton (@SquigglyRick) November 13, 2017
James Paterson: "so let's do a bill for gay marriage"
"Ok, what if we allow you do to heaps of discrimination"
[SSM supporters boo]
"Hmm… what if both….at the same time?"
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) November 12, 2017
I see Paterson is trying to lock in the crucial "homophobic AV equipment rental" vote https://t.co/DP4u8yV363
— Will Kelly (@_wkelly_) November 13, 2017
Even fellow Liberal and Minister for Education Simon Birmingham objected to the proposed bill:
— Kieran Gilbert (@Kieran_Gilbert) November 12, 2017
In a press release, president of the Law Council of Australia Fiona McLeod said that the bill represented a dangerous walking back of discrimination protections:
Australia’s anti-discrimination laws were amended in 2013 to enact important protections for LGBTI people in recognition of the unacceptable levels of discrimination. This Bill will encroach on many of these protections in an extraordinary and perilous way.
For example, the Bill would allow people to refuse to provide goods and services on the grounds of belief, thought and conscience taking us well beyond religious beliefs into unchartered waters.
You could potentially see a situation where a hire car company could leave their customers stranded on the way to a marriage ceremony simply because the driver held a thought or belief against it. This is even if the belief had nothing to do with religion.
The bill is unlikely to pass and more than likely was only proposed as an attempt to please the Liberal Party’s far-right voters without actually having to face the consequences of enacting something so awful, but it still speaks volumes that the party feels comfortable committing something this hideously anti-LGBTQIA to paper.Image: Liberal Party of Australia