“In Australia you’re going to have to be absolutely aware that your laws have to be crystal clear to protect freedom of conscience and diversity,” Professor Iain Benson says.
Warnings from Canada
Professor Benson, a legal philosopher from the University of Notre Dame, says there is plenty of evidence as to the negative effects of introducing same-sex marriage. In particular, the numerous legal challenges that inevitably arise.
He points to a current Supreme Court case in Canada where an evangelical law school’s accreditation is being challenged because it doesn’t support same-sex marriage.
“So what’s going on,” says Professor Benson, “is a very serious debate, right at the heart of law, about whether ‘diversity’ will allow different views on marriage.”
Professor Benson warns that the Australian provisions for protecting freedom of conscience are even weaker than the ones enacted in Canada. He believes that Australians are currently proceeding as though there won’t be the attacks on religious people and conscientious objectors to same-sex marriage that have occurred in other countries.
“And that’s a tremendously naive approach, given what we’ve seen in England, or in South Africa, or in Canada.”
Professor Benson believes that limiting the protection of liberty and conscience to clergy, as though marriage were the only issue, is woefully inadequate.
“For example, is your charitable status going to be threatened because you advocate traditional marriage? Or is your school going to be threatened because its curriculum wishes to portray marriage as heterosexual?”
Diversity of opinion, he says, is the most important thing.
“In any free and open society it’s extremely important on matters particularly as heated as same-sex marriage to ensure that both sides have their viewpoints protected.”
Watch: Prof Iain Benson, a Canadian expert on civic freedoms looks at what happened in Canada after the marriage laws changed, and what is happening now in Australia.
About Iain and Freedom for Faith: Professor Iain Benson is a legal philosopher from the University of Notre Dame and a Canadian expert on civic freedoms. Freedom for Faith is a legal think tank that protects and promotes religious freedom in Australia and beyond.