Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie has announced a motion aimed at reassuring concerned Christians that religious celebrants and churches will not be forced to perform same-sex marriages if there are changes made to the Marriage Act.

Marriage equality advocates have welcomed the proposed motion, saying it will send a strong message to faith communities that their freedom will be protected.

“People of faith have nothing to fear from allowing same-sex marriages because religious celebrants will remain free not to carry out such marriages,” Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Alex Greenwich said.

“The same rules which allow Catholic celebrants not to marry divorcees will apply equally to same-sex couples.

“AME respects the right of religious bodies to decide who they do and do not legally marry, and in return we hope they respect the right of same-sex partners to enter civil marriages.”

Greenwich said the announcement of the motion comes at a key time in the debate.

“The major opponents to reform within the Labor Party are the party’s ‘Catholic Right’ and our message to them is that the Church has nothing to fear from this reform,” he said.

“There is no need for a conscience vote on this because there is no religious freedom or theological doctrine at stake.”

Wilkie has tabled a motion in the House of Representatives which declares:

“Should the Marriage Act be amended to allow same-sex marriages, the amendments should ensure the Marriage Act imposes no obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise such marriages.”

It is expected the motion will be debated early next year.

In related news, Labor senators for Tasmania, Carol Brown and Anne Urquhart today pledged their support for a binding vote in support of marriage equality at the ALP National Conference on December 3, along with a clear majority of Tasmanian delegates

“We must amend the Marriage Act to allow any two adults, regardless of sex, sexuality or gender identity, the honour and privilege of standing in front of their family and friends and make a commitment to each other,” Senator Urquhart said.

“I acknowledge that this debate is difficult and that the community is divided but we need the Government to stand united in pursuit of equality, fairness and dignity for all. Now is the time to remove the last piece of legislated discrimination that I believe fuels homophobia in this country.

“Recently I had the mother of a nine year old boy tell me of the fear her son has of being bullied if he shares stories of his weekend with his mum and her same-sex partner. I challenge those who continue to oppose marriage equality through the pretense of protecting children to look this boy in the eyes and say that the current laws are protecting him,” Senator Urquhart said.

Senator Brown said marriage equality was a fundamental issue of civil rights and legislative reform that will give two people who love each other the freedom to celebrate and define their commitment in whatever way they choose.

“As we bring on this debate at the ALP Conference I call on my colleagues to approach this issue with maturity, moral courage and human empathy,” Brown said.

“Labor has the opportunity to continue our strong and proud tradition of equality and preserve Australia’s reputation as a proud, multicultural, multi-faith, vibrant and diverse country.”

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