Same-sex marriage advocates have welcomed a Senate inquiry report which unanimously rejected several proposed forms of discrimination against LGBTI people.
The Guardian reports that civil celebrants would be required to marry any couples that are legally allowed.
The Senate committee recommended removing the ability to reject same-sex weddings on the basis of “conscientious objection”, noting it was “unprecedented” to allow the concept to justify discrimination against a class of people.
It also recommends creating a new category of independent religious celebrants who would be allowed to refuse to marry couples on the basis of the celebrant’s religious belief. Ministers of religion would retain their current right to refuse weddings on grounds of sex, sexuality and family status.
Co-chair of Australians for Equality and Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Anna Brown, said “the release of this report today means we are a step closer to marriage equality in Australia”.
She said the creation of independent religious celebrants would mean that when same-sex couples approach civil celebrants “they will have the certainty they won’t suffer the indignity of discrimination” and people of faith will still be able to conduct marriages in accordance with their beliefs.
“We will be going through the report in detail and working with all parties to get the legislation right and hope we can see marriage equality achieved this year,” she said.
Long-time marriage equality advocate and just.equal spokesperson, Rodney Croome, commended the LGBTI community advocates who made such a compelling case against perpetuating legal discrimination against same-sex couples.
“We welcome this report, not only because it fails to endorse proposed discrimination against same-sex couples,” he said.
“But because it shows progress on marriage equality is possible when our elected members work across party lines.
“This is just the latest of many parliamentary inquiries into marriage equality. Together, [the inquiries] have canvassed all the implications imaginable. There are no longer any excuses for inaction.”
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) national spokesperson Shelley Argent (pictured) said she hoped this was the start of rapid progress to the introduction and passage of marriage equality legislation.
“Our sons and daughters deserve to see a timetable for the introduction of legislation and a vote,” she said.
“Our next step will be a major campaign to convince the Coalition to allow a free vote so legislation based on the committee’s recommendations can pass.”
The committee was chaired by marriage equality opponent David Fawcett and included the pro-marriage equality Liberals Dean Smith and James Paterson, Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team.
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