Senator Dean Smith has circulated a private members’ bill he’s constructed in collaboration with MPs Warren Entsch, Trevor Evans, Tim Wilson and Trent Zimmerman, ahead of a partyroom meeting on the issue tomorrow.

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 will allow ‘two people’ to marry regardless of their sex or gender, while still maintaining the right for religious ministers and religious service providers to refuse their services to same-sex couples in accordance with their beliefs.

Commercial businesses and non-religious organisations will be required to uphold civil law and not discriminate.

The bill is a product of the select senate committee inquiry conducted earlier this year, co-chair of the Equality Campaign Anna Brown said during a press conference earlier today.

“It’s a historic and welcome step, that contains provisions that deliver equality for same-sex couples while protecting religious celebration of marriage,” she said.

“The inquiry earlier this year was the most comprehensive and rigorous examination of this issue in the parliament’s history, and this bill reflects the outcome of that inquiry.”

Currently, ministers of religion are not bound to solemnise any marriage provided they comply with anti-discrimination laws, and this will not change.

However, the bill contains a new category of celebrants, religious marriage celebrants, that will help to accommodate new and emerging and independent churches, enabling religious figures to carry out marriages in accordance with their beliefs, and to distinguish them from civil marriage celebrants.

Civil marriage celebrants were set up as a secular alternative for providing marriage and they won’t be able to discriminate.

For the small number of civil marriage celebrants that wish to carry out religious marriages in accordance with their beliefs, they’ll be able to transfer to the new religious category of celebrants.

The bill will also allow members of the Australian Defence Force – who can currently only be married by a military chaplain – a secular option, ensuring that LGBTI Defence Force members deployed overseas would be able to marry.

Australian Marriage Equality co-chair Alex Greenwich said they fully endorse and support the legislation.

“This bill is strong and robust – there have been many but it is the strongest one we’ve seen, it’s designed to pass the Senate,” he said.

“This is a reform that would truly make our nation proud. It’s time for our parliament to get on and just do it.”

Senator Smith and his Liberal colleagues will take the bill the Coalition partyroom, with a crisis meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

The Bill will be debated and voted on in the House of Representatives, where it needs Coalition MPs to cross the floor for it to pass.

Watch this space.


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