Alternate Draft Bill for Marriage Equality and Religious Freedoms Released

Tuesday 14 November 2017 @ 11.43 a.m. | Legal Research

Liberal Senator James Paterson has released a draft bill, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) Bill 2017 (Cth) ('the draft Bill'), on 13 November 2017 on the topic of same-sex marriage legalisation and freedom of religion. The Bill is being presented as an alternative to Liberal Party Senator Dean Smith’s draft Bill, Marriage Amendment (Definitions and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 (Cth).

Main Proposed Amendments

The draft Bill proposes to amend various Acts to:

  • expand the definition of marriage to include references to two people;
  • include provisions relating to freedom of expression based on personal and religious beliefs for marriage celebrants, ministers of religion, chaplains, religious bodies;
  • make provisions for a ‘traditional marriage celebrant’;
  • including provisions relating to freedom of expression based on personal and religious belief for goods and services providers;
  • prevention of discrimination by government agencies towards charities based on personal or religious purposes.
  • Allow parents to control education of their children.

Media Release

Mr Paterson has issued a media release on his draft Bill. In the release he states:

‘As a society, we uphold the idea of religious freedom because we believe people of faith ­deserve to be able to lead their lives according to their values. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are intimately linked. As a non­religious person, I should have no fewer rights to live my life consistent with my beliefs than anyone else. That’s why it is necessary to extend the same principle applied in other same-sex marriage bills beyond ministers of religion to anyone else directly connected to a wedding. If it is wrong to force a priest to participate in a same-sex ­wedding against their beliefs, it should be wrong to force a florist or a photographer too.’

Responses to Draft Bill

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously stated about Mr Smith’s Bill, the Marriage Amendment (Definitions and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 (Cth), that it was 'clearly a good Bill to start with’, and has said:

‘In a situation like this when a bill is presented, it’s like the first draft, so that gets put up, and there’ll no doubt be plenty of amendments ...(sic) debated, no doubt, for hours on end and at the end of it they’ll come to a conclusion on an amended bill.’

Mr Smith’s draft bill is a cross-party marriage bill based on the recommendations of a Senate Committee Inquiry, and the Bill is supported by the Labor Party and the Greens, who are expected to raised amendments in Parliament. He is expected to introduce his Bill sometime this week in Parliament.

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[Draft] Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) Bill 2017 (Cth) and explanatory memorandum, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Media Release - 'Release of Draft Bill to Legalise Same Sex Marriage and Preserve Freedoms,' 13 November 2017.

Paul Karp, 'Turnbull says Dean Smith's marriage equality bill a good starting point,' 13 November 2017 (The Guardian Australia).

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