By ROD McGUIRK
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia's Parliament would legalize gay marriage this week despite some lawmakers' concerns about whether Australian cake makers should have to cater for same-sex weddings, a leading opponent of marriage equality said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over whether a baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple was exercising artistic freedom and was exempt from Colorado anti-discrimination laws.
Drafting such measures into the Australian bill would delay it, but several gay marriage opponents have told Parliament this week they would not stand in the way of marriage equality because the Australian public clearly supported it in a recent postal ballot.
Government minister Peter Dutton, a leader among hard-right lawmakers in the conservative government, said his fellow leading gay-marriage opponents in Parliament agree they should not stop the bill from becoming law while arguing over protecting views of gay-marriage opponents.
"The same-sex marriage bill will pass this week, there's no doubt in my mind about that, but we do need to have a sensible, mature discussion around where we can get those appropriate measures in place" to protect opponents' rights, Dutton told reporters.
"This debate for me has never been about homophobia, it's never been about denying the love in a same-sex relationship, never been about discriminating on any basis. The question though is we need to get the balances right in terms of the protections of those people who have fundamental beliefs based on religion or otherwise," he added.
Dutton declined to comment on the U.S. baker's case, saying legal rights and protections there were different.
"I don't support discrimination; I don't want to see a situation also though where people don't have the ability to express their own views," Dutton said.
The current bill allows churches and religious organizations to boycott gay weddings without violating Australian anti-discrimination laws. Several amendments being proposed would expand those exemptions, but Dutton and other lawmakers expect all amendments would be rejected.
The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage was a reality in Australia. Dutton said none of his allies intended to delay gay marriage until those safeguards were decided.
While marriage equality could become law this week, state marriage registries have said they could not proceed with weddings until January due to paperwork.
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