Page 2930 - Week 08 - Thursday, 17 August 2017

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regarding marriage legislation in Australia. In August 2004, a bill that was passed by the Australian government exclusively redefined marriage as between a man and a woman, and in August 2017 they are now considering removing that exclusivity.

Possibly less well known is that in August 2015 a letter on behalf of 100 Christian church leaders was presented to members of the Australian parliament. The letter advocated for the change that is now being contemplated. It is worth repeating that: the church leaders advocated for marriage equality. I can personally vouch that that is what was going on, as I was there as one of them.

You could be forgiven for thinking that if there is a change to the Marriage Act this year, it will be against the wishes of Christians, who are supposedly overwhelmingly against the idea. That is how it is often portrayed, and certainly the implicit claims by some individual politicians and some lobbyists suggest that.

The truth is that marriage equality has been strongly supported for many years by an increasing number of people of faith. Some, such as Father Rod Bower from Gosford Anglican Church and Reverend Dr Margaret Mayman from Pitt Street Uniting Church, are relatively well known. Others, including the Rainbow Christian Alliance that is based in Tuggeranong, may be less known, but they are no less active or less committed to the reform. It is important to note that these advocates’ position is because of, and not despite, their understanding of the faith.

I do acknowledge that it would be both naive and inaccurate to suggest that there is not strong opposition to the reforms from within the Christian faith and lobbying groups which purport to represent Christianity, but I believe that the evidence suggests, and my experience would tend to confirm, that the majority of Christians, along with the majority of people who do not profess that faith or any other faith, support amending the Marriage Act beyond its current exclusive and restrictive definition. It is certainly inaccurate and offensive for those who oppose the change to claim that they represent “the Christian view”.

I have noted before that in my former career I have had the privilege of officiating at many weddings. They have been wonderful celebrations of love and relationship. I have also sat with couples who are not able to be married because of the current definition of marriage. It would have been an absolute privilege to lead their wedding ceremonies as well, to celebrate their love and their commitment. And despite what has been claimed by some, if those marriages had been able to occur, my own faith would not have been undermined, the stability of my own marriage would not have been made shakier, and my children would not have suddenly lived in an immoral society. Quite the opposite.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that we should be making decisions as a nation based on the views arising out of people’s expressions of faith, whether they are Christian views or other views. That is one of the fundamental misunderstandings of some of the opponents of marriage equality. In fact, it is somewhat strange that there is quite so much discussion regarding religious beliefs in this debate. Religious institutions will still be able to determine their stance on matters of faith. That already occurs, as some authorised celebrants already currently choose not to perform

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