Individual Christians – not organised religion – should have the right to decide whether they support same-sex marriage.
That’s the view of the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, who believes that should a plebiscite (public vote) be in favour of same-sex marriage, the church must accept it as “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,” Archbishop of Melbourne Phillip Freier said.
“I am very concerned that the discussion does not become harsh or vilifying – on either side – for it is not only Christians who have sometimes failed on this score.
“The church understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice to each other, and that Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should.”
The Archbishop’s public statement was met with conflicting views.
It was welcomed by Australian Marriage Equality, which said they shared his belief in the value of life-long committed relationships and the simple desire of two people wanting to build a secure future.
“Regardless of the pathway to achieving marriage equality, we join with the Archbishop and call for a positive and respectful national discussion on the issue,” they said.
But the LGBTI rights group, just.equal, sees it differently.
“Just because Archbishop Freier wants a plebiscite to be respectful doesn’t mean it will be,” spokesman Ivan Hinton-Teoh said.
“We are already seeing hateful flyers and pamphlets being distributed and this will increase a hundredfold during a plebiscite.
“The Archbishop is letting down his own congregations because a plebiscite will divide his parishioners, tear families apart and inflame the culture war about homosexuality within the Anglican Church.
“The damage a plebisicte will cause to the church, to the LGBTI community and to the fabric of Australian society could take a generation to heal.
““I would expect the church to accept a positive plebiscite result but I would also expect it accept a majority vote in Parliament,” Hinton-Teoh said.