Australia: Coalition wants to amend Marriage Act as part of new laws to protect religious freedom

The Morrison government is seeking to amend the Marriage Act as part of its religious discrimination act, the first time the act will have been amended since the legalisation of same-sex marriage following the postal survey in 2017.

On the first day of the 46th parliament, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released a list of legislation proposed to be introduced in the winter/spring sitting period.

Included in the list is the religious discrimination bill, which the government said would “make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the ground of their religious belief or activity (including lack of religious belief) and establish the statutory office of the freedom of religion commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission”.

The legislation would amend a number of existing laws, according to the document, including “marriage law, charities law and … anti-discrimination legislation”.

Guardian Australia has sought comment from the attorney general’s office.

New legislation was first announced in the government’s response to the Philip Ruddock-led review on religious freedom, which reported to government last year but was not introduced into parliament prior to the election being called in April.

While the legislation is planned, it doesn’t appear to be written yet. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, reportedly told colleagues he wants to consult with Labor on the proposed legislation, and backbenchers will be allowed to shape the legislation through workshops with Porter starting later this week. Read more via the Guardian

Is Australia about to take a step backwards on LGBTI equality?

The Australian Government announced its intention to amend existing marriage, charities and discrimination laws to allow ‘religious freedom’.

The Religious Discrimination Bill threatens to ‘weaken’ existing protections for LGBTI people.

Activists supports a plan to prohibit discrimination on the ground of religion, but ‘the problem arises when legislation allows discrimination and hate speech in the name of religion,’ according to just.equal’s Rodney Croome.

He then added: ‘Our fear is that the Government’s proposed amendments will allow discrimination that is currently prohibited against LGBTI people and anyone else who falls foul of traditional religious precepts. We call on Labor, the Greens and the Senate cross-bench to block any new provision that weakens existing discrimination protections.’

What does the Religious Discrimination Bill actually say?

The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is still fairly vague. It aims to ‘make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the ground of their religious belief or activity’. It also seeks to establish a Freedom of Religion Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Bill also says it will make amendments to ‘marriage law, charities law and objects clauses in existing anti-discrimination legislation’.

Read more via Gay Star News