So which bill will the government ‘facilitate’?
Before this interminable survey began, the PM gave an undertaking that in the event of a YES majority, the government would ‘facilitate’ the passage of a Marriage Equality Bill, and expressed confidence that it would pass by Christmas.
It’s long been assumed, in government and LNP circles, that this would be the bill drawn up by Senator Dean Smith, which contains exemptions permitting clergy and some civil celebrants to refuse to marry non-heterosexual couples.
It also provides exemptions for businesses owned by religious organisations. But nothing to allow ordinary businesses who might not like LGBTI people much to discriminate against us.
Now another bill is being drafted which backers hope to persuade the joint party room to support instead.
For some in the LNP, and beyond, the Smith bill does not go far enough. Eric Abetz, Lyle Shelton, and others on the extreme religious right have been demanding that any bill for “same sex marriage” must contain wide-ranging exemptions for anyone who does not wish to do business with the LGBTI community.
One of the most vocal critics of the lack of “religious protections” in any of the possible Marriage Equality Bills so far put forward has been the vociferously religious ex-army officer, Andrew “Hands Off” Hastie, MP for Canning.
Now Hastie, along with Senator David Fawcett and MP Ian Goodenough (chair of the joint parliamentary Human Rights Committee), with the rumoured support of IPA drone, Senator James Patterson, is drafting a Marriage “Equality” Bill of his own. Paterson is also a member of the HRC.
The Hastie Bill is stuffed with all manner of religious and even non-religious “conscience” clauses, granting virtually anyone immunity from anti-discrimination law if they object to equal marriage. It is, in effect, a bill to legalise LGBTI segregation: a Marriage Apartheid Bill.
The trio of drafters are now quietly canvassing support among fellow MPs and senators, including Tony Abbott, who can confidently be expected to seize yet another chance to cause division in the party room, and further destabilise Malcolm Turnbull.
In these circumstances, a YES vote cannot be expected to lead swiftly and smoothly to equal marriage: the result of the survey will only be the start of another round of bitter fighting, especially inside the coalition.
Strap in and hang on! It’s going to be a bumpy Christmas.