The cross-party Senate committee considered how to amend Australian law to enable lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people to marry, while protecting freedom of religion.
The Commission agrees with the committee's recommendation to ensure that independent religious celebrants are covered by the proposed religious freedom protection, while civil celebrants are still required to uphold Commonwealth law, including anti-discrimination laws.
The Commission also supports the committee's proposals to ensure consistency between the Marriage Act and the Sex Discrimination Act and believes the proposed definition of marriage as being 'between two people' is clear, simple and inclusive.
The Commission made a submission to the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, focusing on section 47A of the Bill, which allows marriage celebrants to refuse to solemnise same sex marriages on the basis of conscientious or religious belief.
The Commission takes the view that this provision is potentially incompatible with Australia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, specifically the right to equality.
Furthermore, the Commission is concerned that the Bill does not define the concept of conscientious belief in s 47A and instead introduces a concept in the legislative drafting that may pave the way for unjustifiable discrimination in the provision of marriage services.
Finally, s 47A may raise questions of inconsistency in respect of Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.