Right-wing politicians plot to derail LGBT rights even if Australia votes Yes to same-sex marriage
Right-wing politicians are plotting to implement a marriage bill that permits widespread discrimination if Yes wins the country’s postal survey.
Liberal senator James Paterson is to introduce a bill that would override any anti-discrimination laws passed by state and territory level legislatures.
It will permit anyone who holds a religious or “conscientious belief” in traditional marriage to refuse same-sex weddings, allowing discrimination by private service providers.
The proposal comes after a bombshell poll found half of Australians support service providers being allowed to refuse same-sex weddings on the basis of private religious views.
In a poll for Lonergan Research, 49% said they support service workers being able to reject gay couples, such as refusing to bake their wedding cake.
Just 35% thought same-sex couples should have the same access to goods and services, while 15% were unsure.
Marriage equality supporters have heavily criticised the Liberal proposal, which could gain the support of many No voters in parliament.
Australian Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich warned the bill could lead to discrimination against divorced people remarrying and people who have had children out of wedlock.
The result of Australia’s national postal vote on same-sex marriage is expected Wednesday.
Almost 13 million Australians (78.5%) have returned their surveys in the country’s non-binding postal vote on marriage equality, which is expected to return a clear victory for Yes.
However the ballot is only advisory, leaving decisions on whether to change marriage law to Australia’s politicians.
The Liberal proposal will go up against a bill by Senator Dean Smith, which sets out a new same-sex marriage law for the country without eroding anti-discrimination protections.
That bill could be debated within days of this week’s postal ballot result.
The Upper House of Australia’s Parliament is sitting this week and both Houses will return on 27 November for two weeks before breaking for Christmas.
It is expected that same-sex marriage will be legalised following the plebiscite, and the LGBT community is seeking an anti-gay “loophole” to be closed.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull supports same-sex marriage, but many in his right-wing government are opposed to the move.
He has previously said that same-sex couples could be married by the end of the 2018 if voters back Yes, but experts say this is highly unlikely.
Hardline anti-LGBT MPs within the governing Liberal-National Coalition say they will not be conceding – even if the public gives a strong backing for equality.
They will attempt to table a string of amendments to the eventual marriage bill if their own proposal falls.
The Nationals and a powerful right-wing faction of the Liberals – including prominent members of Turnbull’s Cabinet – are strongly opposed to equal marriage, while centrists and the youth wing of the Liberals are in favour of reform.
Despite the attacks, a final poll by Guardian Australia predicts a huge lead for the Yes camp, with final results to be revealed on 15 November.
64% of those who voted backed Yes, according to a Guardian Australia poll, up 4% from similar polls in recent weeks.
31% are believed to have voted No.
All public polls conducted since ballots were first issued have shown Yes in the lead, with support ranging between 55% to 66%.
Tiernan Brady of the Equality Campaign said he believed equality campaigners have “confidently won the argument.
“I think the Australian people have seen through it… I think the public have made their mind up.”