A Roman Catholic booklet explaining church teaching on marriage – while highlighting the belief that all people must be treated respectfully – is being investigated in Tasmania, Australia.
The booklet, entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage, was given out to parents of children at Roman Catholic schools and is now being probed by the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
The move follows an official complaint made by a Green Party candidate, but a public policy think-tank said the investigation was an attack on free speech: “If the Catholic Church cannot distribute a booklet on Catholic teaching to Catholics, who can it distribute them to?”
The booklet says that every human is created in the image of God and has dignity and worth.
“This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They must be treated with respect, sensitivity, and love”.
It goes on to say that men and women bring unique gifts to the raising of children, adding that the label of “marriage” cannot be “attached and transferred to different types of relationships as the fashion of the day dictates”.
Redefining marriage “has consequences for everyone”, the document states, and comments that if Australia was to introduce same-sex marriage then people who hold to the traditional definition would be described as “bigots”.
Green Party candidate Martine Delaney, who was born male and called Martin but now lives as a woman, made the complaint under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act.
Delaney said the booklet harmed “the wellbeing of same-sex couples and their families across Tasmania”.
Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous said the document was an attempt to explain the Roman Catholic teaching on marriage.
“Can I say very clearly it was never the intent of the document, nor of myself to in any way cause any distress for people”, he said.
Think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) said people should be concerned about the investigation regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.
Commenting that it should “never be a crime to offend a person”, the IPA said the booklet “is a reasonable statement of Catholic teaching couched in a measured tone”.
The investigation comes as Australian MPs who opposed same-sex marriage were described by a Green MP as “bigots” who were “scraping the bottom of the barrel”.
The Australian Christian Lobby responded to the comments by saying the Green MP “should apologise to his parliamentary colleagues and the millions of Australians who will always believe that marriage is between one man and one woman”.