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Supporters of the "Yes" vote for marriage equality celebrate Nov. 15 in Sydney. After a majority of Australians indicated they favored same-sex marriage, Australia's bishops said legislators must ensure that any new law on marriage include protection for religious freedom. (CNS photo/David Gray, Reuters) See AUSTRALIA-MARRIAGE-BISHOPS Nov. 15, 2017.

Australian Catholics react to same-sex marriage vote

By Ryan McDougall

Catholics in Australia have shared their views following the country’s vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

In light of the nation’s overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, the head of the country’s bishops’ conference has called on the government to enact conscience protections to ensure that Australians can ‘continue to express their views on marriage, that faith-based schools can continue to teach the traditional understanding of marriage and that organisations can continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with those values.’

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, added: “The Catholic Church, and many others who sought to retain the traditional definition of marriage as it has been understood for centuries, continues to view marriage as a special union between a woman and a man, which allows for the creation and the nurture of children,”

Despite this, he also stated that the Church ‘continues to respect the dignity of LGBTIQ Australians’ and their ministries ‘will continue to care deeply about the dignity and value of all people’ they encounter.

61 per cent of the nation voted in favour of same-sex marriage, to which the diocese of Parramata responded in a statement saying it ‘respects the will of the Australian people.’

“It now seems likely that civil marriage will be open to people of the same sex and we respect that outcome,” the diocese said. The diocese noted that they will continue to promote and practice the tenet of their Faith, that ‘marriage is a lifelong bond between a man and a woman, and open to life.’

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister, said: “They voted Yes for fairness. They voted Yes for commitment. They voted Yes for love,

“Now it is up to us, here in the parliament of Australia, to get on with it.”

A draft bill in place is set to see the act legalised before Christmas.

133 of 150 electorates recorded a mojority ‘yes’ result, and 17 voted ‘no.’ Surveys say that 7.8 million were in favour, and 4.9 million were not.

Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan, head of Catholic Social Services Australia and prominent Catholic figure in the country, said that while he voted ‘yes,’ he voiced concerns regarding religious freedom. “I am one of those Australians who will be pleased when same-sex marriages are recognised by Australian law, but with adequate protection for religious freedoms,” he said in late August.

Echoing Fr Brennan’s concerns on religious freedom was Lyle Shelton, a spokesman for The Coalition for Marriage who campaigned for ‘no.’

“I don’t think anyone who voted in this postal survey wants to see their fellow Australians put up on hate speech charges,” she said.

“We need to protect freedom of speech, freedom on conscience and also freedom of religion.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said he is ‘deeply disappointed’ with the results, and said it could potentially ‘further deconstruct marriage and family in Australia.’

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