“If you make this into a battle between God and the Gays, we will lose.”
Thus spake a Wannabe Gay Pollie when I dared to suggest that the extraordinary privileges granted the religious are the barrier that has to be torn down before LGBTI people can be accepted as full and equal citizens, not just of this country, but of every country on earth.
Let me speak directly to the religious organisations. You are exempt from property and other taxes, which raises the taxes everyone else has to pay. Further, even when LGBTI people are paying you, through our taxes, to provide services to the community, you can and do withhold service and employment from us without penalty.
These privileges cannot be justified. Yet now you are greedily calling for more. Some of our own advocates are even suggesting that you should be given yet more privileges to buy your support for marriage equality.
Now you want bakers and florists and tuxedo rentalists and limousine drivers and reception centres to be protected against ‘participating in something that goes against their faith.’ They cannot be asked to go against their faith by enabling sin. They too must be excused from obeying the law, if we are allowed to marry.
Let’s speak plainly. In the first place, baking a cake, setting out flowers, making a dress, even driving a limo, is not ‘participating’ in a wedding. It is providing goods and services.
In the second, you don’t seem to have any qualms about enabling a raft of other sins. When your reception centre serves a hearty meal of many courses to a fat man, you are enabling the sin of gluttony, but that doesn’t bother you. When you take flattering photographs of plain brides and airbrush the results to look beautiful, you are enabling the sin of vanity, but that doesn’t faze you either. So that excuse won’t wash.
If you are running a business, in a diverse society, no, you may not have a licence to refuse service to anyone you don’t approve of. This is not an attack on your religious freedom. It is, however, an attack on your freedom to impose the tenets of your religion on anyone who does not share them.
If you wish to run a Christian school, feel free. Teach the children of your sect, if they can afford your fees. Employ only church members in good standing. But step into the public realm, open your doors to others, accept public money, and you may not refuse to employ, or serve, anyone.
No excuses. No exceptions. Your aged care homes, your hospitals and clinics, your adoption agencies, employment agencies, your homes and hostels, even your breakfast cereal manufacturer must obey the same laws and pay the same taxes as everyone else.
You want to be above the law and be excused from paying your fair share, then fine. But if you want to do business with any level of government or the public, pay your taxes and obey the laws.
Don’t push your luck by asking for yet more special treatment. This is one battle you cannot win. Your time of privilege is ending. Be gracious and accept it.