EQUALITY advocates are calling on the government to scrap religious discrimination that specifically targets LGBTI people from its draft same-sex marriage bill.

Last week Australia’s Senate established an inquiry into the government’s draft same-sex marriage legislation, which was introduced by Attorney-General George Brandis earlier this year.

The draft bill amends the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry, irrespective of gender and whether or not the couple gets married overseas or within the country.

However, it also explicitly states that the refusal to marry a couple because they are not a man and a woman can be based on a minister’s religious beliefs.

It also states that civil celebrants and religious bodies and organisations can refuse to provide facilities, goods, and services for a same-sex marriage.

Co-chair of Australians for Equality Anna Brown said she’d prefer the wording in the current Marriage Act when it comes to religious exemptions, to ensure it stays in line with anti-discrimination laws more broadly.

“As part of the current Marriage Act religious ministers can already refuse to marry any couple for any reason, as long as they don’t breach anti-discrimination laws,” she said.

“It’s important that any marriage law protects religious freedom but we do prefer the current wording of the Marriage Act over the draft bill because it doesn’t specifically single out same-sex couples for religious discrimination.

“Civil celebrants play a secular role in our society and if civil law includes same-sex marriage then so should its representatives.”

Brown added that the majority of Australians support marriage equality and that it’s important their voices are heard.

“We have carefully examined the bill and made our analysis available on our website along with more information on the Senate inquiry,” she said.

“We have also created a platform for people to add their voice to our submission through a personal statement.”

The Senate has now opened up its inquiry into the marriage equality bill to public submissions, prompting advocates to urge LGBTI Australians to take action.

Co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality and MP Alex Greenwich believes it’s important for community members to let the Senate know how they feel about the bill.

“This inquiry provides Senators with the opportunity to get the legislation right, and for the community to engage directly in shaping this,” he said.

Submissions will close in a couple of weeks. To share your support and thoughts on the government’s bill, you can access the submission guide and form here.

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