Conscientious Objection to Same Sex Marriage?  Read on …

In December 2017, after much debate, the Marriage Amendment Act came into effect, ending the ban on gay and lesbian couples marrying.  


Despite the overwhelming yes vote by Parliament and the Australian public, issues have been raised with respect to religious and conscientious objectors.  In particular, whether a business is required to provide goods and services for same-sex weddings.  But what if the business owner is a conscientious objector?


What are the circumstances?


Currently, if you are an individual or a company who provides services or goods, you cannot refuse to provide your services or goods to others based on their sexuality given this attribute is covered by the anti-discrimination laws.


There has been great debate surrounding the need for protection of conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage.  Some argue that the right to religious liberty will be violated if no protections are in place.


The exceptions


Parliament has, to some extent, established some ‘protections’ by allowing religious bodies and organisations to refuse to solemnise same sex marriage and provide goods or services for a wedding of this kind.


But what about other suppliers? Unfortunately, the law has yet to cater for other conscientious objectors, for example bakers who object to including same sex couples atop wedding cakes, caterers who do not wish to supply food for same sex weddings and photographs who do not wish to photograph the couples on their wedding day.


Consequences of refusal?


If you or your business refuses to provide a service or goods to an individual based on their sexuality, you may (likely) be in breach of Australian anti-discrimination laws.


What’s next?


This issue is a balancing act between the need for equality and the requirement to preserve religious freedom.  There has been constant discussions and proposed legislation to provide sweeping rights to religious and conscientious objectors to refuse to participate in same-sex marriage, despite it falling short of any real change.

 

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