Marriage equality Bill strikes the right balance

On 15 November, a resounding majority of Australians answered ‘yes’ to removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

MARRIAGE EQUALITY BILL STRIKES THE RIGHT BALANCE

 

On 15 November, a resounding majority of Australians answered ‘yes’ to removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

 

It is now up to Parliament to honour that direction from Australians as swiftly as possible, without complication or delay.

 

Australians have waited long enough - there must be no more delays to marriage equality. 

 

It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to finally show some leadership on marriage equality and ensure the smooth passage of legislation as quickly as possible.

The Bill currently before the Senate was negotiated by a cross-party committee that included Liberal, National, ALP, Greens, and crossbench Senators. It reflects an acceptable compromise between the need to ensure marriage equality, and the protection of religious freedom.

 

By supporting this Bill, we are showing our determination to carefully balance those two important considerations.

 

The substantive amendments that have been circulated by Senators Brandis, Leyonhjelm, O’Sullivan, Canavan, Rice and Hanson would upset the careful balance that was negotiated in the development of this Bill.

 

Many of these amendments variously extend discrimination, or seek to curb peoples’ religious freedoms.

 

The Australian people voted to lessen discrimination, not extend it. We will not allow marriage equality to be derailed by debates about religious freedoms that are better had elsewhere.

 

Equally, we remain of the view that Ministers of Religion should not be forced to solemnise marriages against their religious views, as currently covered by the Bill.

 

As such, Labor will not be supporting any of the substantive amendments as yet put forward by senators. To do so in this context would only serve to delay the passage of this legislation.

 

While Labor does not object to further discussion about the human rights framework in Australia, including religious freedom, Labor believes this should be done next year, not rushed in the one remaining week of Parliament.

 

Any attempts to address this issue as part of the marriage equality debate are premature, and will cut across the work of the expert panel commissioned by the government. Government MPs should explain why they want to do this.

 

Labor will carefully consider any technical amendments that might be needed to achieve the objectives of marriage equality.

 

Labor will work to expedite this bill through the Parliament, and honour the verdict delivered by the Australian people. We call on other parties to do the same.

 

The time for marriage equality is now. It’s time to get this done.

 

TUESDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2017