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Australian primate asks for assurance on gay marriage

05 June 2015

RUSSELL POWELL

Victory: The Primate-elect of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Philip Freier (left) and the Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies

Victory: The Primate-elect of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Philip Freier (left) and the Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn D...

THE Australian Primate, Dr Philip Freier, has written to the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and the leader of the Federal Opposition, Bill Shorten, seeking an assurance that clergy consciences will be protected in any legislation that permits same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the Irish referendum results, Mr Shorten has brought a private member's Bill to the Federal Parliament to amend the Australian Marriage Act to permit marriage between "two people", not just a man and a woman, as the Act currently states.

The Bill is unlikely to be successful, given that the Abbott coalition government is not supportive, saying that any such move must be bipartisan, and that the time is not right. Mr Abbott opposes same-sex marriage.

In his letter, Dr Freier has asked that ministers of religion should not be required to marry same-sex couples - a provision already included in Mr Shorten's Bill.

Dr Freier said that Anglican church order permitted marriage as the union of a man and a woman only, and many clergy would consider this a matter of principle.

"Should changes to the Marriage Act be legislated, I urge on behalf of the Anglican Church that there be provision made for decisions of conscience," Dr Freier said. Ministers of religion "must have the right to refuse to solemnise a marriage, if in doing so that would contravene his or her religious beliefs".

He said that "the Anglican Church of Australia abhors homophobia in any form."

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