Those on the right have traditionally opposed the expansion of anti-discrimination law in employment and business operations. This is due to our classical liberal belief in freedom of association and freedom of conscience, the state should not force you in your private business to serve/deal with someone against your will.
However anti-discrimination laws are now a permanent feature of the laws of the western world. The public is broadly supportive of them believing discrimination to be socially unacceptable. The attributes protected under anti-discrimination laws have expanded over the past 20 years are no longer just include race, religion and gender, but now include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The inclusion of the latter attributes has led to many Christian business owners being forced to provide services to same-sex weddings under the threat of legal action and large fines, against their deeply held religious conviction.
In the United States, the bake the cake controversy as it is more commonly known is before the Supreme Court in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The court is considering whether these anti-discrimination laws violate the First Amendment to the United State Constitution protecting the free exercise of religion.
In Australia during the Marriage Law Postal Survey and the subsequent parliamentary vote of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 efforts to protect Christian businesses and employees from being forced to provide same-sex wedding services which were proposed in the alternative James Paterson bill and in amendments to the end legislation were defeated.
Another issue that no campaigners were concerned with if same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia was that would people who hold the traditional view of marriage still have their free speech protected?
The answer to that is no with the Fair Work Ombudsman this week ruling that a Canberra party business owner Madlin Sims’s broke no laws when she terminated her contract with children’s party entertainer Madeline over her posting a ‘It’s Okay to Vote No’ picture frame on Facebook. The Ombudsman ruled that Madeline’s speech was deemed a political opinion and is not covered under anti-discrimination laws.
A similar ruling was made in the United States this week with a Manhattan Supreme Court deciding that a New York bar did not violate state and city anti-discrimination laws when it ejected a Trump supporter because political opinion is not a protected attribute.
The Gillard Government in 2013 proposed the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill which aimed to consolidate Australia’s existing anti-discrimination legislation, it added as protected attributes political opinion, industrial history and social origin. It was opposed at the time by the Opposition Coalition and the Institute of Public Affairs as being antithetical to a free society, plus the fact that it included being offended and insulted as grounds for a legal action and would further empower the Australian Human Rights Commission to police free speech in Australia. The bill was eventually withdrawn by the Gillard Government.
However five years later given the current cultural climate, the progressive nature of Australian corporations and the above court rulings it would appear opposing including political opinion as a protected attribute may have been a mistake. Given that those on the left appear to protected from any discrimination in the workplace and in business dealings while those who hold conservative views do not it would appear that law does not protect both sides of politics equally.
If anti-discrimination laws are here to stay and repealing them would be too politically difficult, should they now be extended to political opinion? Or should we remain committed to our classical liberal principles? Have your say in our poll below.