Australia holds its breath for same-sex marriage survey result

David Gray  Reuters                       A marcher holds aloft a sign while participating in a marriage equality march in central Sydney Australia

SYDNEY == The head of Australia's marriage equality push has slammed calls for anti-discrimination exemptions to be legalised under the guise of "religious freedoms" in the event of a yes vote in the postal survey, claiming such moves would be against the spirit of the support for the reform.

"Certainly the government would not countenance making legal discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful, today", he said.

"If the result is yes, our politicians will need to follow through on a yes result by passing a fair bill that supports true equality".

"There won't be a government position, there won't be a party position", Senator Cormann said.

The debate on the Smith bill is expected to start on Thursday and carry through to the next parliamentary sitting week, beginning in late November.

"But the fact is that assuming there is a "yes" vote tomorrow ... there will be a private member's bill and amendments can be moved and if people want to move an amendment of that kind, well you know they can", he said.

"Like millions of other Australians, I will be disappointed if there is a No result, but I will uphold my original commitment and present my Bill to the Senate without any expectation it will be debated", he said. If passed, this law would, for example, allow a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple, or students to "opt out of classes that conflict with their values", said Paterson.

But he must battle conservative elements within his ruling coalition who are demanding "religious freedom" exemptions in any new law to protect the rights of those who oppose gay marriage on faith grounds.

Fellow Liberal Dean Smith also has a private bill ready for parliament. "In the future, could they be taken to court?"

It is not known if Senator Paterson's bill is the same bill that Western Australian Liberal MP Ian Goodenough said a collection of a dozen conservative MPs were working on creating, or if there are still more alternative bills to be put forward.

"That's why it is necessary to extend the same principle applied in other same-sex marriage bills beyond ministers of religion to anyone else directly connected to a wedding".

"It was part of the journey in Ireland [during the referendum on marriage equality], the issue of freedom to discriminate against people, but that debate lasted a couple of hours because Irish people remember what those signs look like".

"If Australians vote for marriage equality and then ... the parliament for any reason delays or seeks to obfuscate or seeks to thwart the wishes of the Australian people, then I think the view of our parliament, the view of this process will be significantly diminished", he told Sky News.

"In time, there will be no Christmas or Easter".

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