Advocates rule out compromise on equality

APN Rainbow LawAdvocates for LGBTI equality have refused to accept marriage equality legislation that would allow same-sex couples to be singled out for refusal of service.

A Senate committee is currently considering a same-sex marriage bill proposed by Attorney-General, George Brandis, that allows civil celebrants, military chaplains and faith-based businesses to turn away same-sex couples in return for allowing those couples to marry.

Those groups do not currently have the legal right to turn away couples seeking to marry. Appearing before the inquiry this week, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, just.equal and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby refused to be drawn by senators seeking to find a compromise on refusal of service.

Speaking on behalf of just.equal, Rodney Croome, said, “One of the chief reasons for allowing same-sex couples to marry is to remove stigma and inequality against same-sex relationships. We can’t accept legislation that perpetuates that stigma and inequality in a new form.”

Speaking on behalf of PFLAG, Shelley Argent said, “This panel needs to understand that we, as LGBTI sons and daughters and the parents we are representing here today, are 100 per cent adamant that the proposed amendments put forth by George Brandis will not be supported by us ever. Marriage equality is just that. It does not come with exclusions and amendments.”

Dr Sharon Dane outlined to the Inquiry an LGBTI community survey she helped design and conduct on behalf of just.equal and PFLAG. She noted that the survey of over 6000 LGBTI respondents found very high opposition to the proposals to allow refusal of service (over 90%). Critically, that opposition did not drop significantly when respondents were asked if they would accept the proposals in return for being allowed to marry.

Dr Dane said, “Participants were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with such proposals if it meant the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in this term of government. Even under these conditions the opposition remained high for all scenarios, with a drop of only two to three per cent.”

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby presented the results of a survey they conducted among LGBTI people in NSW that found similar opposition to proposals to allow refusal of service. Hearings have now closed and the Senate inquiry is expected to report next month.