Members of parliament, from left, Cathy McGowan, Adam Brandt and Andrew Wilkie celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
On Thursday, the Australia House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but it struck down multiple amendments to protect religious liberty and other forms of dissent in the process.
As the U.S. Supreme Court debates a free speech refusal to take part in a same-sex wedding, this rejection of dissent bodes ill for religious freedom and free association down under.
“The amendments … go very much, again, to the heart of religious liberty that we’ve seen voted down again and again today in this house,” George Christensen, a coalition MP for Dawson, declared on the floor of the House. “And we’ve seen cheers from the gallery … cheering for the erosion of religious liberty … cheering for the erosion of religious liberty.”
As he spoke, onlookers applauded, leading Christensen to add, “There they go, cheering again, cheering again. When I’m specifically saying eroding religious liberty, they support that. This is the voice of tolerance today, and I am disgusted.”
The House struck down multiple amendments from former prime minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Scott Morrison, junior members Michael Sukkar and Alex Hawke, Andrew Hastie, Andrew Broad, and Sarah Henderson, Sky News reported.
On Facebook, Chrisetnsen lamented that the House “voted to not allow civil celebrants — even those who are pastors — to exempt themselves from having to perform marriages for same sex couples. They’ve effectively ensured a lot of people who would otherwise vote for legislation to allow same sex marriage can no longer vote that way, myself included.”
“It also looks like they are going to vote down the right of churches to refuse to hold same sex marriages and marriage celebrations in church halls and the like,” he added. The amendment to protect church spaces also failed.
“If churches and pastors can’t even have freedom to not be party to something that is against their fundamental beliefs then neither can anyone else,” Christensen concluded.
Observers of public opinion in Australia may not be entirely surprised by the House’s vote, however. A survey early this year found that the vast majority of LGBTI Australians opposed any sort of exemptions — even for pastors and churches — from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages.
During the nation-wide vote on same-sex marriage this past fall, the “no” campaign warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would have far-reaching consequences. They pointed to the “Safe Schools” program, which encourages students to role-play same-sex relationships and which endorses transgenderism.
“In countries with gay marriage, parents have lost their right to choose” how to teach their kids about sexuality, the campaign warned.