Australia: Activists condemn ‘opt-out’ for registrars in equal marriage bill
Equality activists have condemned a proposal in an equal marriage bill that would allow civil celebrants to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Lone Liberal Democrat MP David Leyonhjelm first announced he would introduced a same-sex marriage bill in July – with the governing Liberal party considering giving its MPs a free vote on the issue for the first time.
However, activists have condemned a new amendment made by Leyonhjelm to the upcoming bill, which would allow civil celebrants to refuse to marry couples on religious grounds.
Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome said: “Civil celebrants are registered by the government to carry out a government service, much like Justices of the Peace, and like all public officials they should be prevented by law from favouring some people over others.
“Senator Leyonhelm’s amendment would allow civil celebrants to turn away mixed race and divorced partners, as well as same-sex couples, which is something the majority of Australians would find unacceptable.”
He added that religious celebrants were already afforded an exemption from marriage laws, saying: “Religious celebrants existed long before the Marriage Act whereas civil celebrants are entirely a creation of the federal government and should be governed by its rules.”
Despite 72% of Australians supporting marriage equality, with just 21% opposed, Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains staunchly opposed.
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