Churchgoers have been urged to vote against redefining marriage in Australia, as 16 million citizens prepare to be balloted on their views.
Australia is set to hold a postal vote next month on same-sex marriage, answering the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Ahead of the vote, one senator has called for Parliament to pass laws protecting those who disagree.
Both the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney are supporting a campaign upholding the law.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis J Hart, said that people who are attracted to others of the same sex are made in the image of God, but that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
He also warned that future legislation on same-sex marriage could “infringe fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and conscience”.
Protect religious liberty
James Paterson, a senator in Victoria, raised concerns over the impact on religious liberty, saying that Parliament should urgently intervene to stop people like bakers and florists suffering.
He said those in the wedding industry who support the current marriage definition may be forced to choose between their beliefs and the law, if protections are not enacted.
Paterson supports same-sex marriage himself but concluded by saying that Australia should “protect the religious liberty of those who disagree”.
White powder letters
As debate about the vote continues, it has been revealed that two packages containing white powder were sent to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which is campaigning to protect marriage from redefinition.
A mailing centre in Canberra was evacuated after the discovery – which prompted investigation by police and emergency services.
“The packages returned a negative result on site, and have since been confirmed to contain an inert substance”, the police said, but the ACL said the news was “of great concern”.
More than 16 million citizens will be eligible to vote, the Australian Electoral Commission said.
The poll is not compulsory and will not be binding on Parliament.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is carrying out the ballot, has said it will announce the results in mid-November.