Amid government debate over whether civil celebrants should be allowed to refuse same-sex weddings, the peak body of celebrants has said its members don’t want the right to discriminate.

The Coalition of Celebrant Associations said that celebrants should abide by anti-discrimination laws and that they do not want exemptions, The Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

“We feel that if that’s the law of the country, then that’s what you do,” said chair Dorothy Harrison.

“We have discrimination laws and we have to live by them.”

Rona Gould, founder of the Civil Celebrations Network, agreed that celebrants should not be allowed to turn away couples based on gender or sexuality.

“Don’t bring in a law to get rid of discrimination and build in more discrimination,” she said.

Attorney-General George Brandis has been among those arguing that civil celebrants should have the right to refuse service to same-sex couples on conscientious or religious grounds.

“If they have a conscientious objection to a particular form of the ceremony, I think it’s quite wrong to force them to officiate in a way that would violate their conscience,” said Brandis.

Civil celebrant groups said they were comfortable with senator Dean Smith’s marriage reform bill as it stands, without extra provisions for discrimination.

A survey by the Coalition of Celebrant Associations found that 80 per cent of civil celebrants would happily perform same-sex weddings, and just 3 per cent would resign if forced to marry same-sex couples.

Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow said the Australian Human Rights Commission had “strong concerns” about any proposed exemption to existing anti-discrimination laws.

“The price of marriage equality can’t be that we wind back our anti-discrimination laws,” he said.

“If you’re a civil celebrant performing civil marriages, the ordinary anti-discrimination laws should apply.”

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