This church is fighting for freedom to marry gay people in Australia
An Australian church is hoping to end government restrictions on its religious freedom that ban same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is currently banned in Australia, which means that religious groups that believe marriage is a union between two people irrespective of sex are banned from fully realising their religious beliefs.
Ahead of a public vote on equal marriage in Australia, much attention has been given to the ‘religious freedom’ of churches who oppose same-sex marriage, who will be free to not carry out any same-sex weddings no matter the result.
But for St Michael’s Uniting Church, Melbourne, it’s a deeper issue.
The church, which is led by Rev. Ric Holland, has been urging parishioners to vote in favour of equality so that it can carry out the country’s first same-sex church wedding.
Rev Holland explained: “I want St Michael’s to be the first church to legally marry same-sex couples in Australia.
“Marriage equality is important as it is simply natural justice for all people to be treated equally. The Church in Australia should be standing up for this human right loud and clear.
“The discrimination and marginalisation experienced by the LGBTI population increase the risk of developing mental health issues and encourages community division.
“It is the churches’ task to stand up for people who are marginalised; to be constructive rather than destructive and to breakdown barriers rather than build walls.”
The church says it is “an inclusive congregation, accepting and welcoming people of all faiths, cultures, and sexuality”.
A large rainbow sign has been placed outside the church in a show of support for Marriage Equality.
The reverend also called out the tactics of the Australian Christian Lobby, which has heavily lobbied against LGBT equality and is responsible for some of the most brazen anti-LGBT campaign materials.
Rev Holland said: “We stand in total opposition to the so-called Christian Lobby. Lyle Shelton’s views are homophobic and contrary to the spirit of Christianity and the teaching of Jesus, who took a firm stand on equality.”
He added that he has used the Sunday Service at the church to be “a loud voice in the field of social justice, which includes in no small part marriage equality”.
Ahead of the vote there has been a surge in homophobic hate speech in the country, with leaflets distributed in Sydney bearing the slogan ‘stop the fags’ and linking gay people to ‘child predators’.
The ‘Coalition for Marriage’ has recently put out materials suggesting that letting gay couples marry will deprive children of a normal childhood and make them transgender.
Meanwhile, leading politicians have brandished the slogans ‘it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve’ and compared gay weddings to marrying the Eiffel Tower.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently defended the vote despite the string of incidents, responding by telling people to hug their gay friends.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has been harshly critical of the PM for pushing ahead with a postal vote.
He said: “There will be no protection against ballot fraud, electoral bribery, intimidation, interfering with the electoral roll or publishing misleading and deceptive material.
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“[The Prime Minister] is giving his blessing to billboards, websites, pamphlets, TV advertising and online material that will vilify and demean LGBTI Australians and their children.
“We know this bile will end up in the playground, in the schoolyard and on the sporting field. The slogans will be shouted at the children of same-sex couples. Young people who are gay will be confronted by it on social media every day.
“I loathe the trolls and the haters but I expected more from the Prime Minister. I hold the Prime Minister responsible for every hurtful bit of filth this debate will unleash.
“That is not because the Prime Minister has said it, not because the Prime Minister agrees with it—he clearly doesn’t—but because the Prime Minister has licensed this debate.
“You are the leader, Mr Turnbull; you have given permission. I will never hold you in the same light again. I hold the Prime Minister responsible and Australians will too.”