Before the Marriage Law Postal Survey commenced to placate LGBT activists who claimed it would unleash a wave of hate speech the federal government rushed through the parliament anti-vilification laws. Vilification, intimidation, or threats to cause harm on the basis of the sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or the religious convictions of someone during the survey period would see the perpetrator subjected to $12,000 fine or a court injunction.
We were told these anti-vilification laws were only temporary provisions that were designed to foster a respectful debate. Now LGBT activists are lobbying for these provisions to be a permanent feature of Australian law. This comes from a submission to a Senate inquiry into the operation of the Marriage Postal Survey by the LGBT organisation Just.equal.
Just.equal was an organisation which formed from a split in Australian Marriage Equality as they believed the organisation was becoming too moderate and focused on achieving same sex marriage.
Spokesperson for just.equal Rodney Croome stated “The government provided LGBTI people with protections against vilification, intimidation and offensive material during the postal survey and it should now develop these protections and enact them permanently”.
Another organisation lobbying for such provisions to be made permanent is Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality who believe their state’s anti-vilification laws as a model for a national law. This was the state law which saw Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous brought before Tasmania’s anti-discrimination tribunal in 2015 for distributing a booklet ‘don’t mess with marriage’ to Catholic schools in the state to explain the church’s position on marriage.
The effect on free speech was one of the concerns raised by opponents of same sex marriage during the postal survey, that if the law changed would they still be allowed to believe marriage was between a man and a woman? When the law came before parliament an amendment to protect people still holding the traditional view of marriage from such anti-discrimination suits was defeated.
Many LGBT advocates have now said same sex marriage was a too smaller target to aim for and are pushing for even further reforms such as these anti-vilification laws. The last thing Australia needs is more restrictions on free speech to be enforced by our overreaching Australian Human Rights Commission.
While much of the attention post the marriage survey is now on Ruddock Inquiry into religious freedom this Senate inquiry into the conduct of the survey has slipped under the radar, though its recommendations could have a major impact on future Australian law.