Dean Smith

In the Media

MEDIA RELEASE Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017

August 06, 2017

In February 2017, the Senate Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill tabled its consensus report in the Senate.

The Senate Committee was established specifically to examine the Government’s Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill. This Bill would have been presented to the Parliament by the Attorney-General had a plebiscite on same-sex marriage been held in Australia. 

The Senate inquiry received over 400 submissions, heard from 45 witnesses and held three public hearings in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. 

The Committee heard from a range of witnesses including the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference, the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney, Uniting Church LGBTIQ Network, Uniting Church in Australia, Coalition of Celebrant Associations, Australians for Equality, Australian Marriage Equality and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). 

Today we are releasing the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017

The Bill consciously uses the Senate Committee consensus report as the basis for legislating to allow two people to marry, while at the same time protecting religious views about marriage in Australia. 

“This Bill gives effect to our view that all Australians should have equal access to Australia’s marriage laws and that extending marriage to same-sex couples will strengthen and not diminish marriage in Australia,” Dean Smith said.

The Bill is the first to introduce protection for the religious views of ministers of religion, Australian Defence Force chaplains and create a new class of religious marriage celebrants. 

The Bill respects the religious beliefs of ministers of religion and provides that a minister may refuse to solemnise a marriage, and also permits existing marriage celebrants to refuse to conduct a marriage where to do so would be contrary to their religious beliefs. 

The Bill also makes clear that organisations established for religious purposes can continue to refuse to make facilities available or provide goods and services for the purposes of a marriage if contrary to its religious beliefs. 

“The Bill is the most considered and comprehensive response to the issue of same-sex marriage to date, and is the most comprehensive accommodation of competing attitudes on the issue,” Dean Smith said. 

“This Bill is solely about civil marriage. It will not interfere in any way with any church or religious practice and strikes the important balance on religious freedom,” Tim Wilson said. 

“We believe marriage to be a fundamental institution in Australian life and ensuring all couples have access to it will be beneficial to individuals, couples, families and the community, and will strengthen Australian family life,” said Trent Zimmerman. 

“Marriage equality should not be a political issue for a moment longer. It is time we broke the political stalemate, passed the Bill and moved on,” Trevor Evans said. 

“This is about real people’s lives. LGBTI people are our brothers and sisters, friends and work colleagues. They just want the same dignity as everyone else in their families. Let’s just do this,” Warren Entsch said. 

“We will continue to discuss the pathway forward with our colleagues and argue for Liberals to have a parliamentary free vote sooner rather than later.” 

A copy of the Senate report can be obtained at: