COVER STORY Same-sex endgame comes startlingly into view
by Terri M. Kelleher
News Weekly, August 15, 2015
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating same-sex marriage, GLBT activists have moved rapidly to consolidate their agenda. A bill entitled The Equality Act seeks to create anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). It would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to give the same protections to SOGI as cover race, colour, religion and national origin.
As Andrew Walker writes in his article, “The Equality Act: bad policy that poses great harms”, on the Public Discourse website: “By elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to the level of race, the law’s effect would functionally equate those who don’t agree with it with racists and label them perpetrators of irrational bigotry. Indeed, to favour The Equality Act is to oppose and actively stigmatise the moral convictions that millions of Americans adhere to with abiding sincerity and deep religious precedent.”
He continues: “While the bill purports to protect individuals from discrimination, [it] would discriminate against those who do not agree with a regime of laws premised on sexually permissive understandings of human nature that deny sexual complementarity. It would thus create a new form of discrimination by socially isolating certain beliefs.”
Australian lawyer David Glasgow in an article, “Gay marriage isn’t the foe of religious rights” (The Age, August 4, 2015), said Australians should ignore recent calls to protect religious freedom in discrimination laws. He says the liberty of churches and ministers not to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies is “a given” and that the amendments are about liberty to refuse service.
Although section 47 of The Marriage Act would probably protect ministers of religion from being compelled to solemnise same-sex marriages, the view of the seven Labor senators who dissented from the report of the Senate Committee of Inquiry into the 2012 Consolidation of Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination Laws, was that “While churches remain at the mercy of legislation for such protection, it does not guarantee this protection … The re-assurance which the recommendation is attempting to offer is hollow and tactical in nature rather than a matter of substance.”
As regards the right to freedom of conscience and belief of business owners who may wish to decline services where it would conflict with their conscience, Mr Glasgow is brutal; “Is it not reasonable to allow businesses with religious objections to opt out? No, it’s not.”
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson not long ago expressed a similarly unsympathetic view in his article, “Religious freedom and same-sex marriage need not be incompatible”, (The Australian, July 6, 2015): “if a person believes marriage is a religious tradition they have to accept that the market will be narrowed for them to fulfil the purity of their conscience, unless they want to fall foul of anti-discrimination law.”
Yet, when a director of independent think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), Mr Wilson wrote in “The building blocks for a free society” (The Australian, December 18, 2013, subscription required): “Human rights are not a gift bestowed on us by government; they are our basic birthright as free people. … It is a central tenet of liberal democracy that the government’s primary task is to protect our human rights, not restrict them.” Now Mr Wilson seems to be of the opinion that the law should restrict the right of business owners to their freedom of conscience.
Admittedly Mr Wilson was writing particularly about the right to free speech and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which allows complaints of being “insulted” or “offended” to be made. He wrote: “I will be urging full repeal of section 18C. It is an unjustifiable limitation on free expression. The best way to undermine offensive or hateful language is not to shut it down, it is to challenge it, expose it for its flaws. The solution is more speech.”
But he does not propose such a resolution in regard to the right to freedom of conscience for business owners who decline to provide services for same-sex weddings against their consciences.
Would not community reaction be enough to resolve any problems? As Andrew Walker writes (op cit); “If we allow the market to settle what is and isn’t good business practice, individuals are free to vote with their dollars. Stores that discriminate against gay individuals won’t receive my money. Over time, decreasing profit harms the feasibility of business that persists in bad, discriminatory business practices.”
Why is it necessary to force people by law to act against their conscience? Mr Wilson seems to be of the view is that free speech is more important than freedom of religion, conscience, belief and thought.
The very real and serious threats to religious freedom and freedom of conscience, thought and belief if same-sex marriage is legislated go beyond solemnising same-sex marriages or providing services for same-sex weddings.
Many parents would not be able to exercise their right to educate their children in matters of sexuality and gender in accordance with their moral or religious convictions as government schools would have to teach that same-sex marriage is the same as the union of a man and a woman and that homosexual acts are OK. Teachers would have to teach this. Students who have different views or beliefs about sexuality and gender could be treated as guilty of discriminating if they expressed their opinion.
In employment employers would be required to ensure that all employment protocols and workplace requirements complied with SOGI anti-discrimination provisions. All employees would have to be made aware of SOGI requirements.
Dawn Stefanowicz in her article, “A warning from Canada: same-sex marriage erodes fundamental rights” (Public Discourse, April 24, 2015), describes the myriad areas of citizens’ lives into which the Canadian same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws have extended the reach of the state to restrict rights once taken for granted in a liberal democracy. This is a warning Australia should heed now.
The push to legislate same-sex marriage is ultimately about the demands of the few overriding the established fundamental freedoms of the majority. Same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws would make some, in the words of Napoleon in Animal Farm, “more equal than others”.