Bundaberg Anglicans encouraged to 'take a stand’ on gay marriage

BUNDABERG Anglicans are being encouraged to break the law if they oppose same-sex marriage.

One of Australia's top reverends says the region's wedding suppliers should "lovingly and respectfully" refuse services such as wedding dresses, cakes and flowers if they are offended by gay unions.

Refusal to supply goods based on sexuality is illegal in Queensland.

The comments from Gordon Preece, who heads the Ethos Centre for Christianity and Society, follow Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's introduction of the same-sex marriage bill to Parliament on June 1.

Dr Preece said the region's 19,422 Anglicans should remember the church "abhorred" homophobia so a gentle approach was needed when refusing to provide services to gay people.

"Many different believers of all religions have different views about the extent that renting premises or making a cake for same-sex marriage ceremonies represents personal support for same-sex marriages," Dr Preece said.

"But the rights of religious believers to not participate in acts they believe indicate such support needs to be safeguarded.

"Believers who take such a stand should seek to cause as little offence as possible by lovingly and respectfully withdrawing their services and suggesting alternative providers."

Law Council of Australia president Duncan McConnel said the region's business operators could not use their religion as an excuse for "unlawful discrimination".

"One's religious beliefs should not be enough to justify refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple wanting to marry or hiring a venue," Mr McConnel said.

"Their choice to enter into the business of providing such services is made in light of the knowledge that Australia has agreed to be bound by laws that prevent discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality."

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said it was wrong for religious leaders to encourage discrimination.

"We don't accept business people illegally discriminating against divorcees or against interracial couples because they may find their unions objectionable, and neither should we accept illegal discrimination against same-sex couples," Mr Croome said.

While refusing to provide services based on sexuality breaches the Queensland Discrimination act, offenders cannot be fined or jailed.

However, an Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland spokeswoman said some remedies were available to aggrieved parties.

"The outcome of complaints depends on what parties agree to in conciliation," the spokeswoman said.

"So if we accept a complaint based on it meeting the criteria under the Act, we then hold a conciliation conference between the parties.

"For it to be resolved successfully, the parties need to agree on what will be contained in the conciliation agreement as it is legally binding."

The outcome could include payouts, apologies, anti-discrimination training or the respondent having to supply the refused service or goods to the complainant.

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