Religious leaders dispute support for gay marriage
Australian Marriage Equality has welcomed a letter from 20 multi-faith clergy from across Australia calling on Australians to show their support for marriage equality by making submissions to the Senate Inquiry and the House Representatives inquiry into same-sex marriage.
That came as six Victorian Catholic Bishops had written to parishioners asking them to oppose equality for same -sex couples.
Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby said it was confident that the majority of mainstream churches supported the Marriage Act as it currently stood.
The clergy supporting Marriage Equality came from Uniting, Baptist, Anglican, Jewish, and other faith groups.
Their letter sent to 60,000 supporters read:
“As clergy from various different faiths and denominations in Australia, we believe marriage is a fundamental institution in our society. It fosters greater commitment between partners, provides children with a sense of security and stability, and strengthens ties with families and communities.
“Marriage is a blessing to be shared, so we encourage people of faith who support marriage equality to voice their support for the reform by sending a submission to the Senate and Lower House inquiries on same-sex marriage today.”
Australian Marriage Equality National Convener, Alex Greenwich, said the clergy were sending a clear message to decision makers in Canberra:
“These clergy value the security and recognition that comes with marriage, and are calling for this important right to be extended to loving and committed same-sex couples”
Mr Greenwich said the letter was a sign of the growing momentum towards marriage equality:
“Some of the clergy were once opposed to marriage equality, but have gone on the same journey of acceptance that a majority of Australians have.
“Despite the moves of the Victorian Catholic Church, same-sex couples and our families can be confident we now have strong support from religious leaders across the country.”
On March 30, marriage equality advocates rejected claims by Catholic bishops that marriage equality would undermine family life and damage society.
Greenwich said, “Families and societies are only strengthened when couples are allowed to commit to each other through marriage, so to hear Archbishop Hart discouraging any recognition of this commitment is extraordinary and heartless.
“Research of the impact of marriage equality overseas has shown that couples feel more committed and families more secure when given the right to marry.”
He said, “Polling shows a majority of Christians support marriage equality, and this is because they value love, equality and fairness.”
A Galaxy poll last year found that 53% of Australian Christians support marriage equality.
The Australian Christian Lobby’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said the letter signed by 20 church leaders supporting same-sex marriage was not representative of the broad commitment churches and Christians had to see marriage continue to be upheld in law as between a man and a woman.
“Last year we had 54 major church leaders endorse a document on the importance of marriage as a legal institution between a man and a woman,” he said.
“These church leaders came from Anglican, Catholic, Christian Reformed Churches of Australia, Lutheran, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventist Church and Uniting Church denominations,” he said.
Mr Wallace noted that the church leaders who supported same-sex marriage, while entitled to their own opinions, represent a fringe opinion in the church.
“In the lead up to the ALP National Conference last year we had over 120,000 people — predominately Christians — sign a petition to see marriage continue to be defined as it is between a man and a woman,” he said.
“In addition, we had a statement from 22 of Australia’s senior church and denominational leaders calling on the government to protect the definition of marriage in law and not change the meaning of marriage by adding to it different kinds of relationships,” he said.
Mr Wallace said the church leaders who supported marriage between a man and a woman noted the law has adapted in many ways to accommodate relationships other than marriage including making provisions for persons in de facto and same-sex relationships to have access to the same services that are available to married couples.
“But the leaders note that marriage remains different and the legal recognition of marriage is needed for the purpose of securing that relationship and children’s relationship within the family unit to both a mother and a father,” he said.
“Children have a right to the complementary experiences of mothering and fathering as far as possible,” he said.
In its submission to the senate inquiry, the Australian Christian Lobby highlighted the serious implications the proposal has for honouring the importance of motherhood and fatherhood.
Mr Wallace said the submission argued that marriage between a man and a woman was a public good and that children did best with married, biological parents.
“Married, biological parents provide the ideal environment in which to raise children and government should promote and encourage this ideal,” Mr Wallace said.
The 43-page submission also detailed consequences of redefining marriage including the loss of religious freedom and how relationships are treated in education at primary and secondary schools in particular.
The submission also calls on the inquiry to acknowledge the potentially serious implications for freedom of religion and conscience and particularly after a recent European Court of Human Rights judgement that has been interpreted by experts in the law as creating vulnerabilities for churches and individual people where same- sex marriage is legislated.
“Despite assurances from same-sex marriage advocates that religious conscience will be protected, we have no confidence in the ability to guarantee this – especially when many Australian organisations such as the Human Rights Law Centre already call for anti-discrimination exemptions that religious groups receive to be rescinded,” he said.
Polling and further information on Christian support for marriage equality can be found here.
The Australian Psychological Society paper on same-sex marriage and family can be found here.
Quotes from clergy in support of marriage equality can be found here.
Further information on Senate and House of Representative’s inquiries can be found here.
ACL’s submission can be found here.
The President of the Uniting Church, the Rev. Alistair Macrae, explaining the current official position of the Uniting Church on same-sex marriage, can be found here.
Crosslight article on marriage rites.
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