Conservatives Try to Sneak 'Religious Freedom' Into Australia's Marriage Bill

Joe Spagnolo believes many people have had enough of the same-sex marriage debate

Liberal senator James Paterson has proposed an alternative same-sex marriage bill.

"Certainly the government would not countenance making legal discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful, today", he said.

Australia has edged closer to legalising same-sex marriage with a diverse group of cross-party senators backing a Liberal senator's bill to change the law.

If the majority of Australians vote yes, and the ABC's survey is correct, then 70% of the House of Representatives and 68% of the Senate will vote for same-sex marriage.

"The people are being asked if we should treat LGBTI people equally". This Bill will encroach on many of these protections in an extraordinary and perilous way'.

"It's a rebuke to the Australian people", Campaign Director, Tiernan Brady, told Fairfax.

Ms McLeod said freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right. "We don't want this to be a country with signs like the old "no Irish need apply", he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed a conservative-backed same-sex marriage bill, warning sweeping religious protections that discriminate against gay couples will have no chance of passing Parliament.

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"There is no apology for the fact that the Bill does not address free speech or parental rights - because it's a Bill about marriage equality".

Appearing on ABC News Breakfast, Paterson confirmed key details of the bill and said he meant to protect the freedoms of the 30% to 40% of Australians who were likely to have voted against same-sex marriage.

"Australia's anti-discrimination laws were amended in 2013 to enact important protections for LGBTI people in recognition of the unacceptable levels of discrimination".

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said his personal instinct was the Smith bill was "probably a good starting position" because it had been subject to a cross-party Senate committee process.

'You could potentially see a situation where a hire vehicle company could leave their customers stranded on the way to a marriage ceremony simply because the driver held a thought or belief against it.

If passed, this law would, for example, allow a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple, or students to "opt out of classes that conflict with their values", said Paterson. This is even if the belief had nothing to do with religion, ' Ms McLeod said.

"If you are a gay man or a gay woman and you go into a florist and say "I'd like to buy a bunch of flowers", it's just wrong and illegal for florist to say "I don't" serve gay people" just as it would be wrong or illegal for the florist to say to an indigenous person "I don't serve indigenous people'".

With Australia's same-sex marriage poll results due this week, conservatives are asking for protections for parents, school teachers and businesses which continue to defend a "traditional understanding of marriage".

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