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Anglican Primate welcomes the Australian majority voting on the rights of a minority

Anglican Primate welcomes the Australian majority voting on the rights of a minority

Back in JUL 2016, Malcolm Turnbull was campaigning for the highest office in Australia. He is now the prime minister of Australia. During his campaign, he made promises, as all politicians do when running for office. One of his promises was a referendum on marriage equality in Australia. Now as the leader of the coalition government, it appears that a referendum will eventually be placed before the people of Australia. Currently, details as to the plebiscite are lacking.

Shield of the Anglican Church of Australia

However, the Anglican Primate of Australia has weighed into the preliminary discussion. The Most Revd Philip Freier is the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia. The Archbishop feels that this is a promise that the Prime Minister will keep. And he welcomes the conversation that would precede going to the polls on the issue. But he is hoping that it will be a civil conversation. Polls show a majority of the Australian public approving of same-sex marriage. The Archbishop feels that if same-sex marriage were to become legal in Australia that those opposed to same-sex marriage would better accept their loss if it came from a referendum.

Personally, I welcome the plebiscite, though with strong reservations that we must guard the tenor of the debate, and keep it positive. The Government promised a plebiscite in campaigning for the July election and, having been elected, they have the reasonable expectation of honouring this commitment. Further, those who oppose same-sex marriage will surely find it easier to accept it becoming approved in law if they have been given a vote.

– Archbishop Freier

The Archbishop also feels that if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land that the Church needs to accept it as an aspect of society. At the same time, he does not see the Anglican Church of Australia wavering from the definition of marriage, enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer, as being only between a man and a woman. He does not see Australian Anglicans changing the marriage canon to accept same-sex marriage.

The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.

– Archbishop Freier

The current promise of a referendum on marriage equality is the latest attempt to bring same-sex marriage to Australia. Almost three years ago the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) legalized same-sex marriage. This was challenged by the Australian federal government and the High Court of Australia found against the Capital Territory and overturned the legislation.

Facts for this story were gathered from the Anglican Communion News Service.


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John Davus

In Australia a clear distinction is made between a plebiscite – national compulsory opinion poll, just adding up the national total – and a referendum – a requirement only for constitutional change, and needing a majority of votes in a majority of states.
The High Court has ruled that Parliament has legal competency simply to change the Marriage Act, as it did in 2003 from ‘two persons’ to ‘a man and a woman’. A number of conservative government members have declared that they will vote against any eventual legislation no matter what the plebiscite vote might be. The whole situation is very fluid. There could be sufficient votes to block a plebiscite in the parliament altogether. Many argue better that than the ugliness of a bitter and possibly publicly funded national brawl.
The Primate’s position that the Church would and should accept the result (which he expects to be in favour) puts him directly at odds with the Archbishop of Sydney and the head of the so-called Australian Christian Lobby. Fun times ahead.
Remember, Australian Anglicanism is a mysterious beast.

Paul Woodrum

Legislation to up-date out-dated laws is one thing. Public referendums, the refuge of cowardly politicians, quite another. Though, if they must, I hope it carries. Still wish the church would lead, rather than drag behind, on such social justice issues. The Primate’s position may hinder the plebiscite or, if it passes, make the Anglican church look extremely foolish.

Rod Gillis

Agreed. As any Canadian will tell you, referendums are also divisive. More recently, just look at the Tory Brexit fiasco in the now less than United Kingdom.

Paul Powers

Most countries that have legalized same-sex marriage have done so through legislation, not court action. Colombia and the U.S. are notable exceptions.

Geoffrey McLarney

Yes, as are most provinces of Canada.

Rod Gillis

There were court cases in Canada prior to 2005, including eventually a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2004.

However, same sex marriage has been legal in all Canadian jurisdictions (provinces and territories) as a the result of an act of parliament passed in 2005.

Up here, civilly, it’s over.

From an Anglican Church of Canada perspective, it is not the end, but is is the beginning of the end.

At least two urban Canadian dioceses, (and most likely two or three others), are about to allow same sex marriages in church. They are not waiting for second reading of a General Synod canonical amendment. This is a kind of Canadian “Philadelphia eleven” moment.

Paul Woodrum

Guess the Australians haven’t heard of inalienable rights. Minority rights that depend on the mood of the majority are little more than condescending tokens. There is a small comfort in the civil government at least trying to move in the direction of equality. That seems to be more than one can say for the Anglican Primate who, one would hope, would lead the struggle for justice and dignity of all, but who prefers to drag the heels of his pontifical slippers.

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