Same-sex marriage: Yes vote a plunge into the great unknown

Same-sex marriage: Yes vote a plunge into the great unknown, by Gerard Henderson.

On the ABC TV Insiders program last Sunday, Fran Kelly … declared she was providing “some reassurance relief for those who are worried or concerned about religious protections, religious freedoms, if the Yes vote gets up”.

Kelly said Breakfast “had a look at New Zealand … a ­society very like ours”. She reported that there had been “no concerns of ­religious freedoms being con­tested or challenged”. Kelly added that “the churches seem to have no issue” following the changed definition of marriage from that of a union of a man and woman to that of a union between two people.

Reassuring… ? No, not really. What Kelly neglected to mention was that in 1990 New Zealand introduced a Bill of Rights Act. …

Section 13 provides that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without ­interference”. Section 14 declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of ­expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form”. And ­section 15 ­ensures that “every person has the right to manifest that person’s ­religion or belief in worship, ­observance, practice or teaching either individually or in community of others, and either in public or in private”. …

In Australia, on the other hand, the protection of religion in the Constitution is quite limited. Section 116 merely provides that “the Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any ­religion, or for imposing any ­religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any ­religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth”. That’s all. …

The unknown:

Will a Christian, Jewish or Muslim school be able to teach that marriage is a union between a man and a woman without taking the risk of being hauled before a commonwealth, state or territory anti-discrimination tribunal? The answer is, we don’t know.

We also do not know what rights parents would have, including those of the Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh faiths, consequent upon the legalising of same-sex marriage. Would they be able to ­ensure their school-aged children are not taught at school a secular “truth” that is in conflict with the religious “truth” they are taught at home? Once again, no one really knows.

hat-tip Stephen Neil