Release of draft bill to legalise same sex marriage and preserve freedoms

Release of draft bill to legalise same sex marriage and preserve freedoms

Media release — Monday 13 November, 2017


Senator James Paterson has today released a draft bill to legalise same sex marriage in Australia, while preserving the freedoms of all Australians.

“I’ve long believed that same sex couples deserve the freedom to marry, just like every other Australian. That’s why I was proud to vote ‘Yes’ in the same sex marriage postal survey, and have consistently argued in favour of changing the law since I was first publicly asked about the issue in June 2011.

“I’ve never believed that allowing same sex couples to marry needs to come at the expense of the freedoms of other Australians. I have always argued that parliament is capable of ensuring there are no negative consequences for anyone else from allowing gay Australians to marry. Allowing same sex couples to marry is not mutually exclusive with preserving our freedoms, with the right bill.

“Today I’ve released a draft bill that achieves these two important objectives. It draws on the work of the Senate select committee inquiry into same sex marriage, which I was a member of.

The bill:

  • Expands the definition of marriage to include same sex couples, granting them the freedom to marry for the first time in Australia.
  • Ensures ministers of religion and celebrants who hold genuine belief in the traditional definition of marriage have a right to refuse to solemnise a same sex wedding.
  • Establishes a limited right of conscientious objection, to ensure no one is forced to participate in a same sex wedding against their sincerely held beliefs.
  • Protects freedom of speech so that Australians can discuss their view of marriage without fear of legal penalties.
  • Enacts a narrow anti-detriment clause that prevents governments and their agencies from taking adverse action against someone with a traditional view of marriage. It does not apply to non-government organisations, businesses, or individuals, preserving freedom of association.
  • Guarantees parents’ right to choose their children’s’ education by allowing them to opt-out of classes that conflict with their values.


“These protections are important because it should be possible for Australians with different values to live harmoniously alongside each other. All Australians should be able to live their lives according to their own values. No group should impose their values on another group.

“If the parliament opts for a narrower bill with fewer protections, I fear we will see some Australians seek to impose their values on others, with court cases and other legal mechanisms. No one should want to see the messy court cases that have occurred after same sex marriage was legalised in other countries.

“This bill is not a reason to delay legislating same sex marriage. If a ‘Yes’ result is confirmed this week, this bill could be passed by the parliament as quickly as any other bill. I believe the parliament should do so before Christmas, with additional sitting weeks if necessary.”


You can download the draft legislation and a summary of the explanatory memorandum at the following links:

Paterson – Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) Bill 2017

Summary of Explanatory Memorandum and Statement of Compatibility With Human Rights

Explanatory Memorandum with Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights