Religious rights threat in state discrimination laws in Australia

Religious rights threat in state discrimination laws in Australia, by Andrew Burrell.

The states will come under ­pressure to overhaul their anti-discrimination laws if Australians vote yes to same-sex marriage, amid a mounting push to protect the rights of people and companies to act according to their religio­us beliefs. …

Advocates say the issue is most urgent in Tasmania, where several Christians have already fallen foul of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, including Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous, who was taken to a tribunal in 2015 for advocating traditional marriage. …

University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson said he favoured new federal laws that would override “crazy” situations such as that in Tasmania, where it was illegal to “offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule” on the basis of one of 14 listed attributes. Under a complaint in Tasmani­a last month, two Christian preachers were accused of offending­ gays and atheists.

“Tasmania has the most far-reaching laws restricting freedom of speech of any state in Australia,” Professor Parkinson said. “They need to be reviewed because they are incompatible with Australia’s international human-rights provisions.” …

West Australian Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said he would push hard on extending protections for religious beliefs beyond those ­proposed in previous draft bills.

“The protections offered in those bills extended only to the wedding and the wedding participants themselves,” Mr Hastie said.

“They need to be expanded to whole-of-life protections. I will be fighting very hard to make sure it (a same-sex marriage bill) includes religious protections.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil