Right now, Australia is in the process of legalizing same-sex marriage through a postal plebiscite. The projection is that the “Yes” vote will win. When the Yes vote wins, what does it mean for religious liberty? The bill that is being proposed if SSM becomes the law of the land only gives exemption to clergy and pastors to refuse to wed same-sex couples. It does not, however, give exemption to religious privately owned businesses to refuse services based on religious convictions. For example, religious-based learning institutions. If the plebiscite was done six months ago, the “YES” vote would have won by a majority. A few months later, the “yes” vote will win but according to the polls, it will not be with a big margin.
Religious liberty and the sexual moral revolution will always be in conflict with each other. People from the sexual moral revolution want to do away with all forms of religion in the public square. Because they view, sexuality as an immutable character while religious belief is not. And they have a point here, individuals can change religions as they wish, I mean unless you belong to Islam where the penalty for apostasy is huge.
When same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, I am sure no one will object to the clergy being given exemption from having to officiate SSM. And this is an easy one because already over 70% of marriages are performed by state celebrants and already under the law, the clergy have been given wide discretion of who they can and can’t marry.
But this provision only ends there, it is discrimination on the basis of sexuality if religious institutions or business owned by people with strong religious convictions refuse same-sex couples from using their facilities. Once SSM becomes enshrined into law, the trouble will come when religious institutions that are taxpayer-funded and are offering public services start refusing to employ or serve people because of their sexuality. For example, privately owned schools, foster care, and hospitals.
Because they have opened their doors to everyone and are offering goods and services to the public, my view here is the religious institutions that are taxpayer-funded and receive tax exemptions should not discriminate against people on the basis of sexuality, race or gender. If they do not want to do that, then they must be upfront and state what services they offer and don’t offer. The only way I see that would make everyone happy is if religious institutions stopped receiving government support through tax exemption. The government, in this case, won’t have reasons to dictate on how religious institution run their business and who they employ. Another way is religious businesses that offer services to the public should state upfront who they are. For example, everyone that decides to study at a Mormon university knows what they are getting themselves into.
As for private businesses, it is their business to choose who they serve and not serve, who they employ and not employ. In this case, it should be left up to the market to punish the business. For example, in 1960 Woolworth’s was forced to change their segregation policy in America after a nonviolent protest caused disruption to the business. Businesses do not care about people, all they care about is profit and if they are not making money, sooner or later they will adapt to the norms. The government cannot dictate how private cooperation conduct their business, otherwise, that would-be fascist, and defeats the concept of a free market enterprise. Another reason is the Australian constitution limits the power of the federal government ‘s ability to impose its will on the general public.
Moreover, refusing to offer services to an individual is not the same as refusing to serve the individual’s event. If the business refuses to offer services to an individual based on the immutable character, like sexuality or race, then that is discrimination. But in a case in America, being heard in the supreme court between a baker and a same-sex couple, the couple was served at other times with no problem and he had never refused to serve them until they asked for a specific item. There are a number of events the baker does not cater for including halloween, hens night, bucks nights and same-sex marriage events. The criticism you would make is, his business should explicitly upfront about the events he does and does not cater for.
Finally, the next few years will be very interesting in Australia. the conflict between religion and the sexual moral revolution is inevitable as other countries like the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom have shown us.