Listen: Liberal MP Tim Wilson in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty. Image: Twitter / TimWilson
A key advocate for Same Sex Marriage has placed responsibility for the lack of more widespread protection for religious freedom at the feet of the No Campaign.
Tim Wilson is the Liberal member for Goldstein in Victoria and one of the lower house sponsors of the Marriage Equality Bill.
Having passed through the Senate without amendment the Bill will be debated by the House of Representatives this week.
Conservative MPs will once again attempt amendments to strengthen freedom of religious expression and to ensure faith-based charities are not disadvantaged for holding a traditional or Biblical view of marriage.
The existing Bill contains limited protections; the right of churches to decline requests to use their property and for Ministers of Religion to decline a request to solemnise a same sex marriage, with a similar right for a new category of registered religious celebrants.
Broader protections to protect, for example, lay people from being disadvantaged for holding to a traditional view of marriage were proposed by conservative MPs in an alternate Bill, but only after the results of the postal survey of voters was known.
“No-Campaign Should Have Negotiated for Protections Already”
Tim Wilson claims the time to negotiate for further protections was before, not after, the postal survey of voters. His comments suggest that even the decision to ask voters for their opinion was a tactical error on the part of the no campaigners such as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who made the plebiscite part of the Liberal Party’s policy for the 2016 Federal Election.
Tim Wilson told Open House that by supporting a public vote the No Campaign gave up being in a position to help shape the Bill before it entered the Parliament.
“In the end it’s a game of negotiation and people sometimes have weaker and stronger hands.
“Once [the non campaign] gave up … trying to define what legislation entered the parliament [by supporting a public vote] they gave up their strength of their hand and it was left to the Parliament,” Mr Wilson said.
He said any chance for a “nuanced” Parliamentary debate was killed off by the ALP’s decision to bind their Members and Senators to vote against all amendments.
Prior to his preselection as Liberal candidate in Goldstein Tim Wilson, as Human Rights Commissioner, was conducting a religious freedom roundtable.
Part of that process was to explore whether a middle ground was possible between same sex marriage advocates an Christian groups.
Previously on Open House he has expressed frustration that Christian groups refused to give ground on recognition of same sex marriage in return for broader religious protections.
So did the no case miscalculate? It is a question many in the Christian community will be asking for some time to come as religious freedom issues look set to dominate the agenda in 2018.