Religious exemptions on same-sex marriage are a backward step

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 08:05:21 AM. Religious exemptions are the exact kind of discrimination we're trying to get rid of with marriage equality.
Photo: Mr Nicholls said bakers should make the call about serving a gay wedding. (Reuters: Enrique Castro-Mendivil ) All states have anti-discrimination legislation that prevents businesses discriminating against people based on their sexuality, among other things. Religious exemptions would allow people — and private businesses — to refuse services for same-sex weddings by objecting to such weddings on religious grounds. I have written elsewhere about why religious exemptions for same-sex marriage are economically foolhardy. They are also bad policy: they undermine the very purpose of anti-discrimination legislation. Equality vs. freedom Anti-discrimination legislation aims to balance competing "rights". On the one hand, it promotes the right to equality. It also tries to avoid impinging the right to freedom of religion. It is premised on the idea that vulnerable groups require legal protection from persecution. The most recent example of state anti-discrimination laws is the Victorian Equal Opportunities Act from 2010. Its purpose is to encourage "positive action to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation". This enhances prior laws by encouraging pro-active action by goods and services providers to eliminate discrimination. The legislation attempts to balance equality with religious freedom by providing exceptions where discrimination is deemed 'reasonable'. For example, in Victoria, the law allows people to discriminate if it is "reasonably...Read more
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