James Paterson drops plans to introduce alternative same-sex marriage bill

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attends the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Danang Vietnam

Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has said the bill could be debated in parliament as early as this week. The bill makes minimalist changes to protect religious freedom without legalising discrimination by commercial service providers.

Debate continues when the Senate resumes sitting on November 27, taking precedence over government business as well. "Different senators will have their own views about whether the protections in Senator Smith's bill go far enough", Senator Brandis said.

In their contributions, the Labor leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, and the Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, warned that Australians had voted to "remove discrimination" from marriage law, not to add to it, signalling they are inclined to reject extending the right to conscientious objection to civil celebrants.

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said his personal instinct was the Smith bill was "probably a good starting position" because it had been subject to a cross-party Senate committee process.

"I believe that the Smith bill will need some improvements", he said. They didn't vote to license more discrimination and that is what the Paterson bill does'.

"I would like to think that the parliament will be able to meet somewhere in between to give effect to the decision of the Australian people ... and to also ensure that we accommodate the legitimate concern of many Australians for there to be appropriate levels of religious protections".

Parliament will ultimately decide what form the bill will take.

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Senator Smith's bill, which has cross-party support, contains provisions so that ministers of religion could not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages.

'While the Law Council does not endorse every detail of the Smith Bill it represents a better balance from a human rights perspective and represents greater fairness, including those affected by winding back anti-discrimination laws, ' Ms McLeod said.

Almost eight in 10 Australians who received the Australian Bureau of Statistics same-sex marriage survey form have already had their say.

Ms McLeod said the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, endorsed by five government members including Senator Dean Smith, already extended existing protections for freedom of religious expression in the context of marriage and was a reasonable compromise.

While Smith bill allows churches to refuse to Wednesday same-sex couples, the Paterson bill would have allowed anyone with a religious or moral objection to refuse to participate in the process - including florists, bakers and musicians. This Bill will encroach on many of these protections in an extraordinary and perilous way'.

64% of those who voted backed Yes, according to a Guardian Australia poll, up 4% from similar polls in recent weeks.

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