Monday, 1 June 2015

Melissa Parke MHR (ALP) on Gay Marriage and Small Businesses

Me to Her (1) - via her website:

 I live in your electorate. I hope you will vote against the proposed Bill to change marriage law in Australia.

I know you're not married yourself, and you support gay rights and equality, but I hope you will be able to see beyond this to the wider community, and understand just how disastrous this could be for small businesses. It will almost certainly lead to prosecutions in Australia of manufacturers and small businesses who don't agree with the idea of gay marriage.

These people have rights, too. They should be allowed to exercise their freedom of conscience, and also their freedom to withdraw goods and services from sale at their own discretion, without needing to give a reason. Churches and religious groups of all kinds should also be free to marry couples who follow their beliefs, and to restrict the offering of these marriage services to male-female couples, if they wish.

In many Western countries that have introduced gay marriage legislation, lawsuits are beginning to proliferate against business owners who won't provide services for gay marriages, eg bakeries, florists, wedding planners. I would be horrified to see this happening in Australia as well. No one should be prosecuted for following their conscience in this area.

There is already sufficient legislation in Australia to protect the legal and financial rights of gay couples. This is an ideological move, and it's based on very flawed premises, and will almost certainly lead to the prosecution of people who simply don't agree with it, and won't participate in it.

Her to Me (1) - via email:

Dear Phillippa

I hear your view and of course respect your right to oppose any change to the Marriage Act.  While I am inclined to take a different view about the scope of marriage, and while I believe it shouldn't be a category of relationship that excludes same-sex couples, I appreciate the reasonable manner in which you have put your view.  I know this is an issue on which there are strongly held views on both sides, and as a parliamentary representative I have given it a great deal of time and thought.

I would point out that we have seen change to aspects of discrimination in a number of areas in the course of Australian history, including changes to laws that had prevented women and indigenous Australians from voting.  People opposed those changes at the time too.  Now we look back and see that of course it was right to end the discrimination against women and indigenous Australians.  In time to come I think we will look back and say it was right to end marriage discrimination.

Allowing same-sex couples the dignity, stability and happiness of marriage will not change our society, except to make it fairer and more tolerant.  Happiness shared is not happiness diluted, and the clear majority of responses from people in the Fremantle electorate is in favour of an end to marriage discrimination.  I have been contacted by a large number of Fremantle people who support an end to discrimination when it comes to marriage, including a number of Christians, and also by a few people like yourself who would prefer no change.

All these contributions will be part of my consideration if a change to the Marriage Act comes before the parliament.

Kind regards,

Hon. Melissa Parke MP
Federal Labor Member for Fremantle

Me to Her (2) - via email:

Good morning Melissa -

Your first paragraph was great! It gave the impression you'd actually read my submission and heard my voice. However, the remaining two paragraphs are pre-composed and I've read them before in other correspondence. They also don't even come close to addressing the issue I raised.
The issue I raised is not about racial discrimination or votes for women or anything of the sort. It's about the very real risk that businesses will be prosecuted if they choose not to provide goods and services for a gay marriage ceremony. There is also the very real risk of prosecution of organised religions that can't marry same-sex couples.
Can you give me a guarantee that there will be clauses in the ALP's proposed Bill that will protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, churches and businesses to withhold goods and services if they in conscience cannot provide them for a gay marriage ceremony? And that you would support these clauses, because you believe in individual freedom and conscience as much as you believe in fighting unjust discrimination?
Many thanks

Her to Me (2) - via email:

Dear Philippa,
If legislation is passed to introduce marriage equality – as I hope it will – there will be provisions that allow churches to continue to administer marriage in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Australia already has anti-discrimination laws which mean one cannot unreasonably discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race/ethnicity/nationality, or sexual identity.  A business today could not legally withhold goods or services from a same-sex person by reason of their sexual orientation; that will still be the case whether the marriage equality Bill is passed or not.
Kind regards,
Hon Melissa Parke MP
Federal Labor Member for Fremantle

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