Marriage equality advocates have moved to quell fears about calls to reform the Marriage Act by reiterating that churches will not be made to perform same-sex marriages when such marriages are legally allowed.

The re-assurance was made after Perth’s Archbishop Barry Hickey told the Catholic The Record newspaper that his archdiocese would stop conducting all legal marriages if forced to marry same-sex couples.

“We can’t celebrate them,” Hickey said. “The ban on sodomy is still there. We can’t bless a relationship with an inbuilt defect in it.”

“We cannot do those marriages at all. And if the law forces us to, we cancel our registration as marriage celebrants.”

Hickey also said his Church might refuse to conduct funerals for people who entered into same-sex marriages.

“Do we bury them? I haven’t worked that out yet,” Hickey said, “It is the Christian duty to bury the dead, to forgive sins, and to say it’s all in the hands of God.”

“It might be case by case, I just don’t know.”

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) spokesman Rodney Croome said that when the Marriage Act was reformed, Catholic celebrants would not be compelled to marry them in the same way that they were already not compelled to marry non-Catholics or Catholics who had divorced.

“Overseas, the recognition of same-sex marriages in civil law co-exists with the freedom of faith communities not to recognise these marriages, and the same will happen in Australia,” Croome said.

Croome was disappointed by the Archbishop’s comments over whether the Church could bury same-sex married partners.

“Most Australians will consider it hardhearted to deny someone their final wish of a faith-based funeral just because they are in a loving, committed, officially recognised union with someone of the same sex,” Croome said.

Croome invited the Archbishop to meet same-sex partners and their families.

“When the Archbishop meets real same-sex couples living real lives he will see the only ‘inbuilt defect’ we have to deal with is the legal discrimination he upholds against us,” Croome said.

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