Attorney-General, George Brandis, has proposed same-sex marriage legislation that would allow civil celebrants, faith-based businesses and military chaplains the right to turn same-sex couples away if they have a religious and conscientious objection to same-sex marriages. Some conservative politicians and commentators have proposed broadening this to include all wedding-related businesses and even government marriage registrars.
The largest national research survey of LGBTIQ Australians ever conducted has found 81% oppose the idea that services could be refused. The figure goes up to close to 90% when respondents discovered the government's proposal targets same-sex couples specifically. Opposition to refusal-of-service provisions remained just as high even when respondents were faced with the scenario that achieving same-sex marriage in this term of government depends on allowing refusal of service.
The survey also found that support for marriage equality remains very high in the LGBTIQ community at 98%. Crucially, those respondents who most strongly supported marriage equality were also most likely to oppose provisions allowing refusal of service in exchange for passing same-sex marriage in this term of government.
The survey was funded by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in partnership with just.equal. Social science researcher, Dr Sharon Dane, assisted with the design of the survey in a private capacity.
PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent, said,
"The majority of LGBTIQ people are clearly saying that access to marriage on condition they can be refused services is not marriage equality."
"We will now launch a lobbying campaign on the back of this survey to show politicians that LGBTIQ people want true marriage equality, not a watered-down version that entrenches prejudice and discrimination."
Just.equal national campaigner, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said,
"The LGBTIQ community has said, overwhelmingly, that this is a campaign for full and equal treatment under law, not conditional access to the institution of marriage with new forms of legal discrimination sneaking in the back door."
Long-time marriage equality campaigner, Rodney Croome, said,
"The message to politicians is that the LGBTIQ community does not want the path to marriage equality to be lined with new inequalities, just as it didn't want the path to lead through a hateful plebiscite."
"The challenge to our political leaders is to find a path forward that treats all Australians with equal dignity."
The researcher who helped design the survey in a private capacity, Dr Sharon Dane, said the sample of 6342 LGBTIQ respondents makes this likely to be the largest Australian LGBTIQ national survey and that it represents a broad cross-section of the LGBTIQ community.
"A multi-mode recruitment strategy to successfully target minority groups was used. The resulting demographic distribution of the 6342 participants indicates responses are likely to represent a broad cross-section of the Australian LGBTIQ community."
"Opposition remained high, regardless of gender, age or state."
Mrs Argent, Mr Hinton-Teoh and Mr Croome all stressed that they support existing provisions allowing religious ministers to refuse to marry couples whose relationship they disagree with.
Mr Croome said,
"We completely support the existing provision of the Marriage Act that allows religious freedom for clergy, but we draw the line at proposed provisions that target same-sex couples and treat us differently to other couples."
The survey found LGBTIQ opposition to provisions allowing refusal of service increases when it is known that such provisions single out LGBTIQ people over other citizens, including provisions in regard to ministers of religion. However, strong opposition to provisions allowing religious ministers to refuse service (46%) is half that of public servants (94.9%). It is the only area where strong opposition is under 50%.
The Senate is currently conducting an inquiry into Senator Brandis' bill, including its provisions allowing refusal of service to same-sex couples. The survey will be submitted to the inquiry.
A copy of the key results is attached.
Many respondents left comments explaining why they oppose provisions allowing refusal of service. Here are five typical comments:
No other group in society has had their civil / human rights made subject to people's beliefs. We should be living in a truly secular democracy in 2017.
If its not legal to deny heterosexual couples a service (even if another aspect of their selves isnt to someones religious standards) than it should not be legal to deny homosexual or any other couples or persons either.
As important as marriage equality is to me, I would rather wait than face a conditional system like this. A system that allows people to discriminate on us based on our sexuality is compromised and flawed.
Discrimination goes against Australian values. In Australia people are treated fairly and decently. Allowing such broad discrimination will produce a lot of ugliness and division in our society. We do not need this.
Refusal of services should be allowed towards ALL or none. Im not prepared to support a bill based on amendments encouraging discriminatory practices towards a select minority.
For more information contact Dr Sharon Dane on 0403 895 268, Shelley Argent on 0409 363 335, Ivan Hinton-Teoh on 0419 124 826 or Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668.