• The Rev'd Paul Black, Rector

Same-sex marriage could affect religious freedom

In September last year, the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, wrote about the proposed plebiscite (which is now a postal vote): “If the plebiscite does happen it will be important that Christians – and others – vote according to their conscience and their view of what is best for society…

“Should the vote be in favour of same-sex marriage as suggested by the opinion polls, the Church must accept that this is now part of the landscape. We can still stand for and offer holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage…

“The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.”

I agree with Anglican priest Peter Kurti when he says that a feature of the current debate should centre around "religious freedom".

“This concerns the extent — if any — to which the convictions of people who have a religious objection to the redefinition of marriage will be protected by the law.

“Senator Dean Smith's proposed Marriage Act Amendment Bill, which he released earlier this month, only offered protections for ministers of religion and civil celebrants who opted not to marry same-sex couples.

“But as Sydney's two archbishops, along with other senior religious figures and prominent secular critics, quickly pointed out, much broader protections are needed if the law on marriage is changed. Freedom of religion extends far beyond the walls of a church or a synagogue.

“Schools, charities, and other faith-based not-for-profits, as well as ordinary business people such as bakers, florists, and photographers who wish to uphold the traditional meaning of marriage need to be protected from discrimination and attack if the law on marriage does change.

“Those in the Yes camp frequently say that changing the law on same-sex marriage requires nothing more than changing a few words in an Act of Parliament.

“What they fail to admit is that legalising same-sex marriage is far more complicated. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right enshrined in international treaties to which Australia is a signatory.

“If the law is eventually changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, it should not create an additional entitlement enabling some citizens to force other citizens to act against their religious beliefs or conscience.”


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