Freedom to discriminate

Now that the country has been surveyed on the question of same-sex marriage, it’s time to turn our attention to the details of the same-sex marriage bill that is before parliament. Religious freedom to dissociate from same-sex weddings will be at the forefront of the minds of many Christians and Muslims who do not support same-sex marriage. Before and during the postal survey, assurances were given, by the Prime Minister no less, that ‘religious freedom…will be protected in any bill that comes before this parliament.’

The Constitution of Australia makes provision for limited religious freedoms protections in s116 which states that ‘The Commonwealth shall not make any law… prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.’ However, this has been narrowly interpreted in the past to apply only to laws, the express purpose of which is to prohibit the free exercise of religion, not as an unforeseen consequence of anti-discrimination laws. The constitution in itself is no guarantee of freedom of conscience.

Dean Smith’s same-sex marriage bill only offers protections for clergy to refrain from officiating over same-sex ceremonies and for businesses that are affiliated with religious institutions, and is now being fast-tracked through parliament. George Brandis and David Leyonhjelm both seek to amend the bill to protect both civil celebrants as well as those opposed to same-sex marriage on principle. In the words of Leyonhjelm ‘people need to be able to hold a different point of view and not be hounded.”

But how far will these amendments go, and will they even be considered? George Brandis has indicated that the government are not going to ‘remove one form of discrimination, and at the same time instate a new form of discrimination.’ Labor Senator Murray Watt has also said: “Australians delivered a resounding message that they want to reduce discrimination in this country, not increase it.” That the Paterson Bill, that contained measures that explicitly protected religious freedom, was met with such outrage, shows that freedom of conscience to abstain from providing same-sex wedding services is being framed as discrimination and special privileges for homophobic bigots.

It is worth pointing out here that abstaining from providing services to same-sex weddings is distinct from discriminating against people on the basis of their sexuality. A person who does not wish to participate in a same-sex wedding is doing so because they do not support the idea, which is an issue of conscience and not discrimination. There have been no instances so far of bakers, photographers or florists breaking the law and turning customers away because of their sexual orientation since the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013.

Opponents of religious freedom protections claim that it isn’t fair that a business can refuse service to a same-sex wedding because non-religious people will not be free to do so. Same-sex wedding specialists, for example, should also able to able to refuse service to a heterosexual wedding if they want to. They have a point. If a person who has a religious conviction is free to refuse service, why stop there? People and businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they like through voluntary exchange, otherwise they are being forced by law to into non-consensual businesses relationships.

What would a truly free market look like without discrimination laws? If a business was to advertise that they do not serve or hire black people, for instance, the public outcry and sanctions would probably mean they would quickly change their stance, or go out of business. Additionally, businesses that do not discriminate make more money than businesses that do through access to a greater pool of customers and job applicants.

When customers take their business elsewhere, this naturally leads to fairer outcomes than would arise were the graceless hand of government to step in with fines and lawsuits. Society in this day and age does not tolerate blatant racism and bigotry, so why do we need to look to the government to enforce a ‘code of conduct’ on us all? Government have not exactly been a glowing example of moral superiority to date, so we ought not to continue to look to them for validation and correction of societal ills.

The grown-up thing to do if refused service for your same-sex wedding would be to take your business to the 99.5 per cent of other providers who would be only too willing to serve you. Let’s give same-sex couples the benefit of the doubt; if confronted by such a situation perhaps most of them will take this option. But as the saying goes ‘there’s one in every crowd.’

With or without freedom of conscience protections, we all know what will happen to the first business in Australia that refuses service to a same-sex couple with retribution on their minds. Some people will call these conscientious objectors brave and principled, others will call them hateful bigots, but no matter what you think of these people, their punishment will be swift. They will be headline news across the country, they will be publicly denigrated, ostracised and suffer a trial by social media that will likely destroy their business. Surely this is punishment enough, without the iron fist of the law coming down on their heads as well?

The yes campaign has had a great victory; same-sex marriage will be legal in this country. But we would do well to remember that over a third of people who voted do not support it.

Call them what you will, they ought to be free to express their views through exercising their right to voluntary association, in the way they conduct their business. If they do not wish to service a same-sex wedding, then so be it.

After all, who wants to force someone to photograph their wedding, who cannot give their all in celebrating and preserving the memories of their special day? Find another photographer. Live and let live.

This article was also published by The Spectator Australia November 21, 2017

Nicola Wright
Follow me

Nicola Wright

Nicola is passionate about liberty and human flourishing and has an interest in free speech advocacy, and resisting the 'nanny state'. She has had contributions in The Spectator Australia, Online Opinion, Spiked Online and Quillette, and is Managing Editor at LibertyWorks.
Nicola Wright
Follow me

Latest posts by Nicola Wright (see all)


Also published on Medium.

42 Comments on "Freedom to discriminate"

  1. So many people with mental disorder in one place

  2. Society doesn’t condone blatant racism and bigotry… but you’d like to see it creep back in, in other words. Look, if you want to discriminate, you can, it’s just that the smart ones don’t give a reason rooted in racist/sexist/homophobic beliefs. But by all means, lose all the money you want.

  3. Anti-discrimination laws are literally the act of forcing people at eventual gunpoint to do things they don’t want to do. It is the punishment of a man who has literally done nothing to anyone.

  4. Nobody should be coerced to act against their conscience!

  5. For example discriminating against a group of people who don’t agree with your views

  6. Should we demonstrate on the streets against brainwashing ???? Its beginning to feel like that……

  7. You’re missing the point. No voters aren’t worried about the “right” to refuse to make wedding cakes and all that. What they’re terrified of is that other people will have the right to discriminate against THEM. The “arguments” against gay marriage have always been about Christians being able to feel that they they have some group or other under control, and can persecute that group in various niggly little ways. This is a vital underpinning of Christian security and self-confidence. Denying marriage to gays made Christians feel just so safe — here was an enemy, something to hate, something whose (now very limited) suppression made Christians feel superior and righteous and cleansed. Gays were a scapegoat. That”s why every time gays got another civil right or two, there was always a scream about protecting children — it’s really Christians who abuse children, but putting all the blame on gays and having them to some degree outside society was a modern version of the original scapegoating process. Now, though, 61% of Australia says that gay marriage is OK. Gays are part of the whole community. Christians feel that their mental defences have been torn down. Since all religious protections in Australia have to apply to everybody, Christians are terrified that gay cakemakers and so on will now be able to refuse service to Christian weddings, and that these gays will justify their discrimination on religious grounds. Which they will then declare to be beyond criticism, just like Christians do with their own religious beliefs. It’s no wonder that Christians are frightened and are puling on and on about religious protections for themselves alone. Trivial, ineffective, meaningless delay is the only thing left to them. For as long as gay marriage doesn’t actually happen, they can feel that nothing has changed.

    • Your an idiot Grant the Anti discrimination act specifically states that you cannot discrminate against anyone based on thier religious beliefs – Baking a cka eis a service that you offer to THE PUBLIC FOR A FEE and it is because you are asking for money that you can not discriminate – Also contract law states that once a monetary offer is made then you can not break a contract unless you are unable to provide the service and your refusal to fulfill the contract simply because a person is gay is also illegal under commercial law

    • You are being logical in an illogical situation. Which means that YOU are now missing the point. I wasn’t talking about reality; I was talking about the nonsense which Christians are trying to inflict on everyone else. I know that Christian nonsense is always hard to explain, and it seems that once again I’ve failed to explain it to some people.

    • That would without doubt be the biggest load of shit I have evet read

    • I don’t think anyone understands the actual underpinnings of your post – clearly even you Grant. I think you feel superior to Christians for their ‘illogical actions’; I think you enjoy pointing out how Christians have persecuted others because it makes you feel better about your self.

      Do I think you do this intentionally? Oh god no.
      Do I think Christians persecute others intentionally to make themselves feel better? Oh god no.

      Every time you insult a group of people for their actions, you’re doing the same thing they’re doing. Instead of levelling insults and accusations, try to be understanding: these are people who were raised on, or have chosen to base their lives in, a different moral system to yourself. Not better, not worse. Christianity preaches a lot of great ideals, actually so does Buddhism, Islam, and just about any other religion. What turns these things against groups of people?

      People. It is our nature to try to put ourselves above others, actually it’s the nature of life – if I’m better, I’m more likely to xx; whether xx stands for reproduce, get that promotion I want, afford my dream house, ANYTHING.

      It’s also, unfortunately, in our nature (as per our brains biological make up) to listen to emotions before logic, I do it, you do it, every human does it. When we see someone and we can find an ‘obvious fault’ in them, it makes us feel better – because we *don’t* have, that particular, obvious fault. We listen to our minds first reaction, which is emotion. We, by and large, do not stop and go “what makes this a flaw”, or “what are the characteristics of this element that I feel are negative / negatively affecting the situation, and where else might they apply?” We think “man that dude’s a douche, glad I’m not!” then we walk around with our nose up our asses, wondering why the whole world smells like shit.

      This post? Me feeling like I ‘understand’ a thing you don’t; my intention? Honestly? I try and fail, daily, to control my emotional reactions to just about everything – not because I dislike emotions, but to understand them better. I fail. REPEATEDLY. But I try, and sometimes, I succeed. And the more I succeed, the more often I succeed in the future. Do I want you to be like me? Fuck, No. I don’t suck, I’m not great – but I kinda like myself. I want you to be you. I want you to think that maybe a flaw isn’t just the whole package of “this is shit, thus this whole thing is a flaw”, but rather think, even just once, “this is shit; what made this shit?”

      TL;DR: It’s not Christians who get their jollies off putting others down – it’s Humans.

      P.S. sorry for the obviously “I’m so superior” first paragraph; need to assess my own shit a bit more often, clearly 😉 Please don’t take it as an insult, it really wasn’t meant as one.

    • And that’s why we need laws against religious persecution Matt Davis, because at the end of the day it is what religions DO not what they preach that is of serious concern. Look at the recent case of the teacher that got sacked. Is this fair in your book Matt?

    • Evan Vernon Giles, this the point precisely. If public services are allowed a conscience vote for religious reasons this can be used as legal grounds to challenge anti-discrimination laws. These laws are not inalienable and can indeed be overuled.

    • Evan Vernon Giles, i would also point out that anti-discriminiation laws don’t apply to religious institutes. I would further point out that religious institutes now own the majority of businesses in Australia in one way or another.

  8. Grant, what a total pile of shyte. Stop projecting, and stop lying.

  9. Oh, and stop changing the subject. The question at hand is, who do YOU get to force to do what YOU want, and your answer is clearly “everyone”. Save us all the wall of self righteous bullshit.

    As for Freedomworks, if “freedom to be a bigoted piece of shit” is your best shot, please stop trying to advance liberty, because you suck at it.

    • Freedom to be a bigoted piece of shit is the best way combat people being bigoted pieces of shit. Why do you love the state so much?

    • I thought maybe if I didn’t sugar coat it, you might begin to see the Atomic Holocaust levels of rhetorical failure! FWIW, I’m an LDP voter and member. What I “love” is NOT giving away the moral high ground before the fight even starts.

    • Overall, I in fact love your work. I’m just sayin’, jeez man, there’s damning with faint praise, and then there’s this.

  10. Unless you are white heterosexual male,,,, then you get discriminated against at anytime by anyone

  11. the freedom to discriminate is necessary for survival… if we cannot discriminate, we are lambs to the slaughter…if i do not wish to associate with any group or race based upon my observations of their violent behaviour…that is a choice i make in my interests……the same goes for political parties….and i do not like homosexuality, my choice… you can’t make me… no more nanny state bullshit…it has to go…

  12. Arrrr the easily offended being easily offended

  13. To lazy to earn a living just want to find someone to sue over nothing for a quick $ tuffin up do some hard yards for a change it makes you a better person

  14. There are plenty of service providers who will cater for same sex weddings. Why would a same sex couple want to use a service provider who chooses not to do same sex weddings as there would be conflict during the process. Only activists will seek out these providers in order to embarrass them.

  15. No. Actually free speech without boundaries can lead to fascism, because when broadcasting vilification, the the population becomes brainwashed, and the bigots and fascists end up having all the power.

    • Fascism arises out of censorship and free speech restrictions. Read up on Weimar Germany and the restrictions put on members of the Nazi Party very early on. The best and most effective way to combat bad ideas is to let them be heard and fight back with better arguments.

    • Censoring Nazis helps Nazis. Free Speech 101.

  16. Correct there Bob. That’s what all this equality hocus pocus is about.

Comments are closed.