Oz passes gay marriage law, rejects free speech safeguards

Australia’s parliament has voted to redefine marriage, striking down amendments to protect free speech and religious liberty as it did so.

Earlier today, the House of Representatives backed a Bill to introduce same-sex marriage by Liberal MP Dean Smith, after it passed through the Senate by 43 votes to 12 last week.

Same-sex weddings will be legal from early next year, after the Bill has been given Royal Assent and gone through other formalities.

Amendments

Amendments tabled by MPs to secure vital free speech protections were all rejected.

One would have allowed Australians to speak freely about their traditional marriage views without fear of legal action.

It won support from Attorney General George Brandis and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – both gay marriage supporters – but was still voted down.

Another amendment to protect the right of charities to hold a traditional view of marriage was also defeated.

Limited exemptions

Under the legislation, churches and religious organisations will not be forced to carry out same-sex ceremonies.

Existing marriage registrars can also refuse to officiate at homosexual weddings. However, those who take up work after the legislation has passed will not be afforded this right.

At one point in the debate, MPs discussed the prospect of a ‘gay cake’ case like Ashers or Jack Phillips coming up in Australia.

Government lawmaker Trevor Evans dismissed the question saying, “the slim prospects of that occurring doesn’t warrant the pages and pages of commentary and debate that have been dedicated to it”.

Broken promises

Responding to the news, Australia’s Coalition for Marriage group said the passing of an un-amended Bill was “evidence of the disregard that many MPs have for the freedoms of Australians”.

Spokesman Lyle Shelton said: “The Australian people were promised that their freedom of speech, freedom of religion and parental rights would be protected in any same-sex marriage legislation, and this has not happened.”

“As a result of the parliament failing to uphold the rights and freedoms of ordinary Australians, we expect to see similar consequences for free speech, freedom of religion and parental rights as what we have seen overseas.”

The Daily Telegraph reports that free speech protections could be considered again at a later date.

Abuse

Last month, in a non-binding postal ballot, Australians voted to abandon the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

The result followed a campaign of sustained abuse and threats of violence against ‘no’ voters. In the months leading up to the vote, a mother received death threats and a Christian lost her job simply for expressing opposition to the redefinition of marriage.

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