THE ACT Labor/Greens Government has introduced legislation for same-sex marriage in the ACT, despite clear warnings from constitutional law experts that this legislation is beyond the scope and powers of the Assembly’s authority.
The nine members of the Government have decided that they are anointed to change the definition of marriage for the rest of Australia.
One would have thought that the nation’s rejection of Kevin Rudd’s agenda, combined with the significant defeat of several votes on same-sex marriage in Federal Parliament, would be respected by our local leaders on this.
Alas this is not the case, and the personal determination of ACT politicians is blinding them to the significant impact this will have on a very important section of our society… florists.
Barronelle Stutzman is a florist who owns Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State, one of a few US States to have redefined marriage. She had a regular customer who was (with her full knowledge) same-sex attracted, but drew the line when her customer asked for a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding.
She declined, her reason being that she felt unable in good conscience to use her creative gift to support something she fundamentally disagreed with – as she believed marriage is between a man and a woman.
As a result, she is being sued by that State’s attorney-general, and her business has been boycotted and picketed by activists.
This is not a one-off situation, and similar cases have included photographers, celebrants, sports announcers, bakers, bed and breakfast owners, mayors, teachers, and counsellors. In fact, there are now dozens of cases involving termination, fines and even possible jail time for refusing to comply with new laws in the handful of overseas jurisdictions where marriage has been redefined.
These consequences are very serious, as once a law is made, not complying with or recognising that law in the public space can be seen as a criminal offence.
Following the logic, an ACT public servant expressing personal opposition to this definition of marriage could legally be charged with discrimination and ultimately sacked (which also has precedent overseas). It is ironic that despite all actual discrimination being removed from same-sex couples in 2008, this next legal push will actually remove genuine rights of freedom of speech and religion.
The new Catholic Archbishop, Bishop Christopher Prowse, has recently requested a moratorium on this issue of marriage until a genuine consultation has been had with the ACT community.
The question needs to be asked about how this law would affect businesses, churches, schools, welfare, families, hospitals, and individuals who choose to hold the traditional view.
So far, the ACT Government has ignored all requests, with the only “consultation” on the issue held in 2006, where the majority of Canberran submissions rejected the redefinition. In fact, a recent JWS poll showed support for same-sex marriage had slipped to 45 per cent. Maybe a local government who has been in power so long gets complacent, and feels it doesn’t need to engage with everyday people anymore.
I hope and pray this is not the case, but it does look like our new Federal Government may need to intervene. My suggestion would be that this issue go to the people, and a national referendum is held on this incredibly important question and the results respected.
However, be assured that a poorly thought out law affects more than just florists.
Nick Jensen is a director of the ACT Australian Christian Lobby