Same-sex marriage bill introduced, paving way for debate on religious exemptions

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 01:16:01 PM. In a historic moment for the Australian Parliament, Liberal senator Dean Smith introduces the bill expected to legalise same-sex marriage.

Liberal senator Dean Smith introduces legislation to legalise same-sex marriage Video: Liberal senator Dean Smith introduces legislation to legalise same-sex marriage (ABC News)

In a historic moment for the Australian Parliament, Liberal senator Dean Smith has introduced the bill expected to legalise same-sex marriage.

Attorney-General George Brandis moved the bill into the Senate, noting that it would be open for free debate and there was no Government position on the bill.

Senator Smith's bill, which has cross-party support, contains provisions so that ministers of religion could not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages.

It is a joint bill with Liberal colleagues Linda Reynolds and Jane Hume, Labor's leader in the Senate Penny Wong and her colleague Louise Pratt, Greens leader Richard Di Natale and his colleague Janet Rice, as well as crossbenchers Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Derryn Hinch.

Senator Brandis said he wished to move two amendments to the bill: to extend religious protections to civil celebrants and that nothing in the bill would make it unlawful for people to hold and express their own views on same-sex marriage.

External Link: Tweet from Liberal senator Dean Smith: I will shortly introduce the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 into the @ausenate to legislate for marriage equality

Labor's leader in the Senate Penny Wong made a short statement after Senator Brandis announced the bill, asking her colleagues to keep in mind the public's view when discussing amendments.

"We have the view that the Australian people voted to lessen discrimination and not to extend it," she said.

"We also take the view that the bill does not change or take away any existing protections for religious freedoms."

Greens leader Senator di Natale noted the bill introduced to the Parliament was not the bill his party would have introduced themselves, and that they would not be open to further discussions regarding "entrenching discrimination in legislation".

Earlier today Mathias Cormann, who is a leader from the conservative side of the Liberal Party, said the Smith bill was a good starting point but needed "additional religious protections".

Another bill proposed earlier this week by Victorian Liberal James Paterson allowed much wider exemptions from discrimination laws, including for service providers like bakers and florists.

But Senator Paterson released a statement this afternoon saying he was happy for Senator Smith's bill to take precedence.

"The Parliament must now quickly pass a bill to legalise same-sex marriage. It is clear the majority of senators believe my colleague Senator Dean Smith's bill is where we should start," the statement said.

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