100+ LGBTI groups and leaders welcome consensus Senate report and call for Parliament to deliver marriage equality in 2017

More than 100 Australian LGBTI groups and leaders have joined together in the wake of the Senate Inquiry Report into the Draft Amendment to the Marriage Act to voice their support for the example set by the committee and to urge the parliament to act on marriage equality for all Australians.

Co-Chair of Australians for Equality and Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre Anna Brown said, “The report has delivered a cross-party consensus on how parliament can work together to achieve marriage equality while offering balanced protections to religious freedoms."

“The committee has identified the changes necessary for this Bill to pass the Senate, it is now time for Parliament to do its job and legislate for marriage equality."

“We acknowledge the balanced approach to religious freedoms through the suggestion to create a new category of religious marriage celebrant to clearly delineate these celebrants from civil marriage celebrants."

“We welcome the view by the inquiry that civil celebrants should not discriminate against any couple legally allowed to marry and that it is unjust to single out religious protections against LGBTI couples over other religious views."

“We also welcome the view of The Committee that creating the right of conscientious objections to same-sex weddings would justify an unprecedented discrimination against a group of people,” Anna Brown said.

Australian Marriage Equality Co-Chair Alex Greenwich said, “The Senators have shown that we can rise above party politics and work across party lines to find a way forward on marriage equality.

"This joint statement sends strong messages to all sides of federal parliament that the LGBTI community will continue to work with them to deliver marriage equality in this parliament.

“It brings LGBTI Australians closer than they have ever been before to realising marriage equality in their country can become a reality,” Alex Greenwich said.

Executive Director of the Equality Campaign Tiernan Brady said, “Marriage Equality will take nothing away from anyone but will mean the world to loving and committed LGBTI couples, their families and their friends.

“Our campaign will continue to build on the growing momentum to achieve marriage equality.

“The campaign will continue to demonstrate the nations strong and diverse support for marriage equality until LGBTI people are afforded the freedom, dignity and equality for their relationships that is available to every other Australian,” Mr Brady concluded.

MEDIA: Clint McGilvray 0413 285 186 or Mike Fairbairn 0448 524 731

Joint Statement

As organisations and leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, we welcome that the “Report on the Commonwealth Government's Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill” delivers political consensus on the ways to achieve civil marriage equality in 2017.

Significantly, the report delivered a cross-party consensus on the ways the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment Bill should be amended to balance protections for religious freedom while allowing all Australian couples to marry. These changes leave the current ability for ministers of religion to marry only those couples that align with their religious beliefs unchanged.

We particularly welcome the following views of the committee:

  • Civil celebrants should not discriminatorily refuse to marry any legally allowed couple.
  • It is unjust for protections of religious freedoms to single out LGBTI couples over other religious views on marriage.
  • That it would have been “unprecedented” to introduce into law the proposed power to reject same-sex weddings based on “conscientious objection,” as it would allow the concept to justify discrimination against a class of people.
  • The terms “Religious Body” and “Religious Organisation” along with “reasonably incidental to” (a marriage) should be clearly defined.
  • The bill’s name and purpose should be fully inclusive and therefore should not use the phrase “same-sex marriage.”

We note the committee’s consensus proposal of the creation of a new category of ‘religious marriage’ celebrants to clearly delineate these celebrants from ‘civil marriage’ celebrants. We believe civil marriage celebrants should not be permitted under law to marry some couples but not others.

While recognising the committee has identified issues for Parliament to address, such as how to include ‘religious belief’ within Australia’s anti-discrimination laws, we support the view that this should not delay the Parliament’s deliberations on marriage equality and call on all parties to legislate for this important reform this year.

We thank the members of the Committee for their determination to work together. The Senators have shown that the issue of marriage equality is above party politics and an issue on which the Parliament can work across party lines to find a way forward.

Our shared goal is simple – we want the Parliament to vote for marriage equality as soon as possible.

We thank the Parliament for decisively voting down the proposed plebiscite last year. The Senate’s decision to explore the Government’s draft legislation to amend the Marriage Act has identified a clear and achievable pathway to allow all loving and committed LGBTI couples access to civil marriage in Australia. The committee has identified the changes necessary to help the Exposure Draft pass the Senate, and now we must move forward on a real bill.

Marriage equality is an outcome with benefits for every community across Australia, whether they are rural or regional, suburban or metropolitan, culturally or linguistically diverse, and young or old. Our friends, family, colleagues and the two-thirds of Australians who consistently state their support for this important and straightforward reform are watching and waiting for leadership. This inquiry has demonstrated marriage equality will take nothing away from anyone but will mean the world to loving and committed LGBTI couples, their families and their friends.

LGBTI Australians across this nation defend, serve, protect and care for their fellow Australians every day. They are everyday heroes who do their jobs; they are waiting for politicians to do theirs. All we are asking from our politicians is that they afford us the dignity of being able to publicly commit to our partners in the institution of civil marriage.

Marriage promotes the greatest human values - love, respect and the freedom to pursue happiness. Extending marriage to all Australian adults is good for our community and our nation. It is only fair.

We will continue to build on the growing momentum to achieve marriage equality. We will continue to demonstrate the nation’s strong and diverse support for marriage equality until LGBTI people are afforded the freedom, dignity and equality for their relationships that is available to every other Australian.