Media Release

Friday 18th October 2013

The Australian Christian Lobby is calling for the ACT Government to halt the passing of the Marriage Equality Bill until legal issues are thoroughly investigated, public submissions can be made and evidence heard.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it’s received legal advice from lawyers Neville Rochow SC and Chris Brohier showing the Bill is “inconsistent” with the Commonwealth Act and incapable of concurrent operation. This appears consistent with the advice to the federal government from the commonwealth Solicitor-General.

“If this bill was passed a celebrant in the ACT officiating at an opposite-sex wedding would be, according to the legal advice, declaring as legal something which was in fact is both legal and illegal at the same time,” Mr Shelton said.

Mr Shelton said despite the rhetoric from the ACT government around protections of ministers, there were ways someone could take action against a minister of religion who may not want to perform a same-sex marriage.

“The bill sets up a scheme for persons to be registered as celebrants to conduct ceremonies and although the Attorney-General said no minister will be required to register under the scheme nor make the place of worship available for a same-sex marriage, it appears there’s no stopping an action being taken against a minister under the Discrimination Act or Human Rights Act as churches are generally public places,” he said.

Mr Shelton said these were genuine issues that needed to be addressed in such a highly controversial piece of legislation.

“This Bill should be sent to a standing committee of the Assembly to allow proper consideration of the operation of the Bill and its consequences,” Mr Shelton said.

“It would only be fair for the Assembly to be fully informed through a committee review of the concerns in this area and the potential outcomes should, as is likely, the Bill be challenged in the High Court,” he said.