Experiences of the marriage equality postal survey and views on religious exemptions: A report on a nation-wide study


A large-scale survey of LGBTI Australians has rejected exemptions similar to those in the Dean Smith marriage bill that allow discrimination in the name of religion. 

The study found a slim majority of LGBTI people would rather wait than accept a compromised bill prompting advocates to call for the Smith Bill exemptions to be tightened and for there to be a no detriment clause for LGBTI people.

The study conducted between the closure of the postal survey and yesterday's announcement of the result, also found almost 80% of LGBTI Australians were adversely affected by the postal survey with 56% saying the process was not worthwhile, even with a Yes vote.

As a result advocates have called for the money saved on the postal survey to be spent on LGBTI support services.

The survey of 3,300 LGBTI Australians across all demographics was auspiced by just.equal and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and designed by social scientist, Dr Sharon Dane.

It found 63% opposition to civil celebrants nominating themselves to have the right to refuse their services for religious reasons and 87% opposition to businesses with religious links also being able to discriminate. 

71% believe exemptions allowing discrimination against any couple would be used to disproportionately discriminate against same-sex couples.

54% said they would be willing to wait until marriage equality can be achieved without such exemptions. 28% were not willing to wait and 18% were neutral.

Just.equal spokesperson, Brian Greig, said,

"The LGBTI community clearly wants marriage legislation that will not legitimise further discrimination." 

"For LGBTI Australians religious exemptions like those in the Smith Bill already go too far and anything more would be a definite deal breaker."

"Religious exemptions like those proposed by Dean Smith and other Liberals are all about smoothing over differences in the Liberal Party and nothing to do with the aspiration of the LGBTI community for full equality."

"Other countries, including Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland, did not attached spurious religious protections to marriage equality and neither should Australia."

"We call on the Parliament to amend the Smith Bill to tighten up its religious exemptions, and ensure there will be no detriment to LGBTI people."

"Our study also shows that despite a strong Yes vote the postal survey caused widespread harm and that nothing like this should be attempted again."

"We call on the Government to spend the money it saved on the postal survey on LGBTI mental health services to ensure there is support for those who continue to be affected by the prejudice the survey stirred up." 

The projected cost of the postal survey was $122 million but it came in $20 million under budget.

PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent said,

"We believe in religious freedoms, but not religious privilege especially when it negatively impacts on our children's freedoms. Our sons and daughters are not to be feared and the Yes vote shows the vast majority of this country believe it's time to end discrimination.

"This LGBTI community study funded by PFLAG showed that LGBTI couples would prefer to wait for true marriage equality."

"A Galaxy poll of the entire community also commissioned by PFLAG showed almost all Yes voters and 43% of No voters believe all couples should be treated equally should the nation vote Yes, which is decisively has."

The survey designer, Dr Sharon Dane, said,

"The study was conducted in the lead up to the postal survey announcement so that people's attention was focussed on the result without being unduly influenced by the outcome one way or the other." 

"Polls showing a likely Yes vote meant many LGBTI people were quietly optimistic about the outcome, yet a majority of respondents still oppose compromised legislation."

"We kept the questions as general as possible because the details of proposed religious exemptions will keep changing."

The just.equal and PFLAG study is the the first study on the impact of the postal survey to be released and the largest and most detailed consultation with the LGBTI community about exemptions such as those in the Smith Bill.
The full report can be downloaded here.

The results of an LGBTI community study from earlier this year about a broader range of possible religious and conscientious exemptions in marriage legislation, including those similar to exemptions canvassed by Senator James Paterson and Senator George Brandis, can be found here.

The study was designed and implemented by just.equal and was made possible with financial support from PFLAG Australia.

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