Our Say: End the discrimination, don’t create more

WHEN the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases the results of the nation’s cumbersome postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage, it is not expected to reveal any great surprises.

At 10am on Wednesday we can expect to learn that the federal government has spent $122 million of our money simply to confirm what every opinion poll for the past decade has shown: That the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.

Now comes the job of getting legislation through both houses of parliament, even as the conservative right continues looking for roadblocks to put in the way.

So let’s make something clear to our federal MPs: You cannot bring equality by legislating new areas of discrimination.

As you consider a Bill to allow same-sex marriage, be aware that, yes, there are already exemptions written into discrimination legislation that protect religions’ right to act in accordance with their beliefs.

Faith-based schools can deny employment to applicants that come from a different background and churches are allowed to deny career advancement to someone based on their gender.

It naturally follows that churches will not be required to perform same-sex marriages if such a move would be in conflict with that church’s belief system.

But what Victorian Senator James Paterson is proposing in his Private Member’s Bill goes far beyond that.

Mr Paterson is proposing that the federal government proactively legislates to allow continued discrimination against same-sex couples even as the community calls for such discrimination to end.

So a baker or a florist does not want to do business with a same-sex couple? Too bad.

That same baker or florist would not be given the right to choose not to do business with a couple based on, say, their ethnic background or religion, so why should this be any different?

If the legalisation of same-sex marriage is to carry real meaning it cannot seek to differentiate between same-sex and traditional marriage. Where exemptions currently exist, they should continue to exist. But where exemptions don’t exist, the government should not be creating them.

Senator Paterson’s Bill is not about finding a compromise that would appease the general public but, rather, finding a compromise to appease all factions of a political party at war with itself.