LGBTI Australians: Churches, Pastors, Bakers Can't Say No to Gay Marriage

LGBT rainbow flag over Australia

A new survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia has found widespread opposition to any legal provision allowing churches, ministers, businesses, or civil celebrants to refuse to take part in a gay wedding.

Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Australia, although civil unions and domestic partnerships are recognized. As of September of last year, 21 same-sex marriage bills have been proposed in the Parliament of Australia, but none has passed. The current legislation being proposed by the government would allow religious and civil celebrants to turn away same-sex couples based on their religious or personal beliefs. The new survey suggests most LGBTI people emphatically disagree with this compromise, however.

Ninety-two percent of LGBTI people in the poll said they opposed exemptions for civil celebrants — people who preside over non-religious weddings -- BuzzFeed reported. When asked if they would accept such an exemption in order to pass same-sex marriage in Australia, 91.2 percent still opposed it.

Fifty-nine percent disagreed with an exemption for religious celebrants, while 27.8 percent agreed, and 12.8 percent were undecided. Let that sink in — nearly 60 percent of LGBTI people in Australia say it should be illegal for a pastor or religious minister to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. This position also flies in the face of current law, where Australian pastors have the right to refuse to marry anyone.

But it gets worse. A whopping 94.3 percent of respondents opposed any exemption allowing a religious organization to deny use of its property for a same-sex wedding. This would include a banquet hall next to a church (which thus provided a "non-religious service") that the church rented out for other occasions. According to these people, a church should not be able to refuse to rent its property for a same-sex wedding, even if the church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.

When the LGBTI respondents were asked whether they would let a church refuse to rent its property, in order to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia, 90.6 percent still opposed any such exemption. The government's proposed same-sex marriage bill does include a provision allowing "religious bodies and organizations" to refuse to provide facilities or goods and services to same-sex couples for their weddings, or for a purpose connected to their weddings.

The survey also addressed exemptions (and possible compromises) which were not in the government's proposed same-sex marriage bill, but have sparked controversy in other countries.