Our Say: Senate brings us one step closer to history

BUT for Malcolm Turnbull’s arrogant decision to delay the final sitting of parliament by a week, historic same-sex marriage legislation in this country could have been passed by the end of November.

Debate over the bill has passed through the Senate more quickly than most believed possible and is now awaiting determination by the House of Representatives.

This is the work we elect our politicians to do but, instead, MPs are this week cooling their heels and will only return to Canberra after Barnaby Joyce is inevitably re-elected at this weekend's by-election in New England.

The key result of debate in the Senate was the majority decision to overturn an amendment that would have allowed business owners who did not believe in same-sex marriage –  such as the bakeries and florists we have heard so much about in recent months – to legally refuse to do business with same-sex couples.

Senators should be congratulated for rejecting such an amendment.

Such a law would fail the principle of fairness.

It would not be a victory for freedom of expression, speech or religion; rather, it would be a victory for continuing discrimination.

Businesses are not allowed to refuse to trade with people on the basis of their race, religion or gender.

So why would we countenance introducing a new law that delivers marriage equality to same-sex couples but only at the expense of basic rights of freedom from discrimination afforded to all other sectors of the community?

Conscientious objection does not qualify as a basis for discrimination in our country and nor should it.

Questions of religious exemptions - that is, exemptions related to churches rather than business owners who have a particular faith - are a different story.

Such exemptions already exist in other areas of law and so we would not be winding back the principles of anti-discrimination to continue such exemptions in the area of marriage equality.

The passage of the bill through the Senate this week, though, means those discussions will probably be held in the New Year.

By then Australia will have already seen its first legal same-sex marriage.

The world will not end, the sky will not fall in. What will see is an outpouring of love and joy that should be celebrated by all.