NSWGLRL welcomes the release of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) welcomes this Bill and its attempt to find a compromise proposal the current Parliament can support. This reform to the Marriage Act is long overdue and much too important to be delayed any longer.

However, it has been the longstanding position of the NSWGLRL that there should be no religious exemptions in the treatment of LGBTI persons where a service is provided by, or on behalf of, the Australian Government.

The proposed Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 appears to offer current marriage celebrants a legal protection to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples based solely on a personal religious belief [see: Section 39 DD (2), and Section 47 A]. This new exemption would also apply to straight couples.

NSWGLRL does not support this new encroachment of personal religious beliefs into the provision of services supplied by Government-authorised celebrants who are not Ministers of Religion.

Despite this imperfection the Bill has every chance of succeeding in Parliament if there is a conscience vote – and there should be no excuse for further delay or rejection of this Bill by the current Parliament.

The recent Senate Committee inquiry into marriage equality rose above party politics and showed that political parties can work together to deliver the will of the Australian people.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) is the leading organisation for lesbian and gay rights in NSW. Established in 1988, our mission is to achieve substantive legislative and social equality for lesbians, gay men and their families.

A statement from the NSW GLRL Co-convenors

Earlier this week, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, as well as one of its Committee of Management members, Shannon Molloy, was on the receiving end of behaviour that was completely unacceptable.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is an organisation that for twenty-nine years has continued to fight for equality for LGBTI people. We believe that no person should be discriminated against for who they are. We also believe that no person should be victimised because of who they are. We have seen too many instances of abuse that people within the LGBTI community, as well as the LGBTI community as a whole, has received. Being told that we do not deserve the same rights, the same protections, the same respect, is something that no person should ever have to experience. When that behaviour comes from within our own community, it should be condemned. There is a difference between having a debate on an issue, and personally attacking someone. The behaviour that has been shown this week towards particular individuals that have proudly volunteered for our organisation has been nothing short of appalling. It is damaging, and there should be consequences for those responsible.

One of the biggest strengths that the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has is its volunteers – something which has existed throughout the entirety of the organisation’s history. Every person that sits on the Committee of Management, including ourselves as Co-convenors, are volunteers. We are completely committed to our mandate of achieving legislative and social equality for LGBTI people, and we as volunteers give as much time and effort as we possibly can to make that happen. Attacking and criticising one volunteer purely because of their employer, one which afforded them the opportunity to speak of their discrimination and victimisation they have personally experienced, is unacceptable. Volunteers speak for and represent themselves, not their entire place of employment. To use the actions of others as justification to abuse people is wrong. It is not acceptable, and it never will be.

It is with sadness that following the amount of public attention his role at the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has attracted this week, Shannon Molloy has resigned from the Committee of Management. Shannon has the total support of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and should he ever wish to return to the organisation to help create positive change for our community, an issue which is so dear to his heart, we will welcome him back with open arms. Since his election to the Committee of Management, Shannon has made an incredible difference to the organisation, and we cannot thank him enough.

The unwarranted abuse has to stop. People within the LGBTI community should only want the absolute best for their peers, their friends, their loved ones, their community. There should only be one priority – achieving equality, not stopping until the day that arrives, and supporting each other to make that happen every single day.

Marriage Equality: The Case For Reform

While there are many disparateissues to canvass in the case for marriage equality, we particularly encourageindividuals to consider making the following points in their submission.

Marriage is a civil institution, governed by secular laws, of which allpeople are entitled equitable access.

  • Marriage is not an immutable religious institution. The GLRL recognises that marriage takes many forms in different cultures and has various religious histories attached to it. However, marriages performed by the state are civil, not religious, in nature. Federal legislation should reflect the separation of Church and State and not seek to privilege particular religious interests over treating all its citizens equally. Civil marriage equality should be made available to all couples regardless of sex.
  • Marriage equality is an issue of human rights. Marriage reforms are essential to uphold the human rights of sexual and gender minorities. Australia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that expressly provides for equality before the law and right to non-discrimination. In recent history, marriage reforms, through the lens of non-discrimination, have secured the legitimacy of interracial unions and furthered the agency of women in marital relationships. In the context of evolving norms then, the Marriage Act 1961 should be amended to define marriage as the ‘union of two people’ irrespective of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Australia is falling behind comparable jurisdictions and should recognise foreign marriages. Same-sex couples can legally be married in many foreign nations: Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina and South Africa permit equal marriage. Despite not recognising these marriages in Australia, the Federal Government now issues eligible same-sex couples Certificates of No Impediment to marry in these jurisdictions. Couples that are legally married in overseas jurisdictions, should have their marriages recognised in Australia.
  • Marriage equality has broad community support. Consistent polling indicates that over 60 percent of Australians support marriage equality.
  • Civil unions are not substitutes to full marriage equality. The GLRL recognises that relationship recognition can take multiple forms, and we support a range of options being available for same-sex couples. However, permitting civil unions or relationship register schemes, while denying same-sex couples access to marriage, produces a tiered relationship structure that privileges heterosexual relationships while undermining same-sex relationship recognition. 

Update on LGBTQI Advocacy

Last night, a community update meeting was held at ACON to present the LGBTQI policing advocacy paper. This paper is now available to download.

Click here to download the advocacy paper: Policing at NSW Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Events and Venues. [345.37 Kb]

The advocacy paper addresses a range of recommendations and solutions to improve policing, event management, community relations and visitor experience and contains twelve recommendations regarding political and operational reforms.

The advocacy paper and its recommendations were developed after an extensive review of numerous complaints from the community and feedback provided by attendees at community meetings held in March and June.

The document results from the collaboration between several LGBTQI organisations, including Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG), ACON, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and the Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC).

Since the development of the advocacy paper and over the last three months, significant consultation has occurred with senior government and cross party politicians, and government agencies including NSW Police to implement some of the key recommendations.

This ongoing process will result in soon to be announced new operational management plans that are to be implemented in time for the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.