Anglican bishops break ranks to support Australia’s same-sex marriage bill
A group of Anglican bishops has broken ranks to support a same-sex marriage bill in Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants to ensure that a same-sex marriage bill would protect celebrants who object to performing same-sex weddings.
The group of bishops broke with church leaders to support Senator Dean Smith’s bill which was passed by the Senate last week and which will go to the lower house from Monday.
The Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes organised the statement.
They have said the bill should be approved as it currently stands, as it already preserves anti-discrimination laws.
“It preserves the fabric of our anti-discrimination laws, which have been developed over half a century,” the bishops say.
“These give expression to democratic values of equality and fairness. It also accords fulsome recognition of the religious rights and freedoms that underpin a democratic, plural and multicultural society.”
It also notes a split in the church over same-sex marriage.
Earlier this week the Senate officially voted for same-sex marriage in Australia, sending the bill to the lower house this week.
The bill was the 21st same-sex marriage bill to be brought before the Senate, and the first to succeed.
And with parliament set to make same-sex marriage legal, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants to ensure that the legislation won’t force celebrants to perform same-sex weddings against their will.
He also expressed concern that the legislation would strip charities of their charitable status if they are opposed to same-sex marriage.
He told Sky News: “A lot of the amendments we’re talking about are really providing assurance that things that are unintended consequences are not going to occur.
“[We should] make it clear there is nothing in the bill that prevents or inhibits or hinders anyone from expressing their views about what is the … morally right form of marriage.”
Debate is expected to take up the lower house’s program for the upcoming week, which is the last this year.
Earlier this month Australians gave their overwhelming backing to equal marriage in a public vote, by a margin of 61.6% to 38.4%.
The national postal ballot was non-binding, however, leaving the final decision on legislation up to Parliament.
Senators voted by 43 votes to 12 in favour of progressing the legislation.
Almost all Labor senators, the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team, Derryn Hinch and members of the ruling Liberal-National Coalition voted in favour.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives next week, where it is expected to pass easily.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is on course to meet his pledge of legislating for the historic social reform before Christmas.
The Marriage Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced by Dean Smith, the first openly LGBT member of parliament from the Liberal Party and a passionate supporter of marriage equality.
Alex Greenwich of the Equality Campaign said: “The senate has acted on the mandate that the Australian people delivered and have voted overwhelmingly for fairness and equality.
“Just as Australians came together for marriage equality, so has the Senate, and now it’s time for the momentum to carry the reform through the House of Representatives.
“We got here thanks to the hard work and passionate campaigning of so many people across the country who stood up for a fair go for all.”
“The senate has acted on the mandate that the Australian people delivered and have voted overwhelmingly for fairness and equality.”
Throughout debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, senators proposed a series of amendments to prevent supposed curbs on freedom of speech, religion and parental choice, and to allow civil celebrants to refuse weddings.
All proposals were defeated by the cross-party group, but there are still plans to move new amendments in the lower house.
Anna Brown of the Equality Campaign said: “This victory is the culmination of more than a decade’s work by supporters of equality.
“Each and every person who has campaigned for equality, each Australian who stood up and voted YES, and, today, every Senator from every political party who voted in favour of equality and fairness.
“During the debate we saw history being made with LGBTI members from all major parties leading the debate. Our supporters in parliament stared down efforts by religious conservatives to introduce new forms of discrimination against LGBTI people.”
She continued: “Next week the Bill moves to the House of Representatives and we urge the Parliament to get on with it as Australians are not interested in delaying marriage equality any longer.
“Australians did their job and overwhelmingly said YES to marriage equality in one of the biggest political mandates in Australian history.
“It is now time for the House of Representatives to pass the marriage equality Bill so Australia can move forward as a fairer and more equal nation.”
Green party senator Sarah Hanson-Young gave an emotional speech urging Parliament to take this momentous step.
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The senator, a consistent support of LGBT rights, paid tribute to the Greens’ former Parliamentary Leader Bob Brown.
She told her fellow politicians: “When Bob retired, in 2012, I said to him: ‘Bob, I’m really sorry that we weren’t able to reverse that awful law before your time was up.'”
Then, she started to cry.
“Today … Today I stand here with my Greens colleagues, finishing the job that Bob Brown started.”