Aus­tralia church ‘can­cels wed­ding af­ter Face­book post’

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD -

Aus­tralia’s prime min­is­ter Fri­day de­fended a church’s right not to marry some cou­ples fol­low­ing re­ports a woman’s wed­ding was can­celled af­ter she posted sup­port for same-sex mar­riage on Face­book ahead of a na­tional vote.

A vol­un­tary postal bal­lot in­volv­ing up to 15 mil­lion Aus­tralians on whether gay mar­riage should be le­gal­ized is un­der­way, with the re­sults due in mid-Novem­ber.

The sur­vey is non-bind­ing but Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has vowed to hold a vote in par­lia­ment if the ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians choose “yes.”

The poll has at­tracted heated de­bate from the “yes” and “no” cam­paigns, with some prom­i­nent clergy speak­ing out against such unions, warn­ing that le­gal­iz­ing them could in­fringe on re­li­gious free­dom.

Fair­fax Me­dia re­ported Fri­day that one cou­ple were due to be mar­ried in the ru­ral town of Bal­larat in Vic­to­ria, but af­ter the bride-to-be posted sup­port for changing mar­riage laws on Face­book she was told the church min­is­ter would no longer of­fi­ci­ate.

“You must surely ap­pre­ci­ate that your com­mit­ment to same­sex mar­riage op­poses the teach­ing of Christ Jesus and the scrip­tural po­si­tion prac­ticed by the Pres­by­te­rian Church of Aus­tralia and by me,” the min­is­ter wrote in a let­ter to the bride pro­vided to Fair­fax.

“This con­flict of views has prac­ti­cal con­se­quences in re­la­tion to your up­com­ing wed­ding. By con­tin­u­ing to of­fi­ci­ate it would ap­pear [...] that I sup­port your views on same-sex mar­riage or that I am un­car­ing about this mat­ter.”

The church, Ebenezer St. John’s, had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on Fri­day, but Turn­bull de­fended the min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion, say­ing “churches are free to marry who­ever they like.”

“Churches are en­ti­tled to marry or not marry whom they please. That is part of re­li­gious free­dom. My own church, the Catholic Church, will not marry some­one who has mar­ried be­fore,” he told re­porters in Can­berra.

Turn­bull, a mod­er­ate who sup­ports same-sex mar­riage, is op­posed by some mem­bers of his con­ser­va­tive rul­ing Lib­eral-Na­tional coali­tion on the is­sue and the postal vote is seen as a com­pro­mise.

“No” cam­paign­ers say changing the laws could im­pact the church, but both Turn­bull and La­bor op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten — who also sup­ports gay mar­riage — have said re­li­gious free­dom would be pro­tected un­der any re­forms.

Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day passed elec­tion-style safe­guards re­strict­ing cam­paign ma­te­rial that might be mis­lead­ing and de­cep­tive dur­ing the bal­lot pe­riod, amid fears the vote could un­leash a bar­rage of ho­mo­pho­bia.

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