An Australian bride is in shock after her church cancelled her heterosexual wedding because she supports marriage equality.
The country is in the midst of a controversial postal survey on same-sex marriage, the results of which the government intends to use to decide on whether or not to change the law.
Fairfax Media reports that in response to the national debate around the issue, the 26-year-old bride-to-be stated on social media that she personally supports legalising same-sex marriage.
This led to Minister Steven North, who was set to marry the woman and her 25-year-old fiancé in November, to call off the ceremony at Ebenezer St John’s in the city of Ballarat, Victoria.
North explained in a letter to the couple that “your commitment to same-sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus and the scriptural position practiced by the Presbyterian Church of Australia and by me”.
He added: “This conflict of views has practical consequences in relation to your upcoming wedding. By continuing to officiate it would appear either that I support your views on same-sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter. As you know, neither statement is correct.”
The couple, who have asked not to be identified, had already sent out wedding invitations and were forced to find another venue and officiant for their ceremony.
They responded to North in a letter of their own. “We feel this decision is absolutely disgraceful and is a disgrace to you and all the church, especially when we have been loyal and valued members of this congregation for 10 years,” said the couple.
“You were made aware from the beginning of our proceedings that we had gay friends and also that people in our wedding party were gay. How could you assume that we would abandon them or degrade them with regards to same-sex marriage?
“We understand we did agree with the teachings of the church in our marriage counselling but just because we agree with that for our own lives, doesn’t mean that we have to push those beliefs onto others,” the couple wrote.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who personally supports same-sex marriage, has come out in defence of the church’s decision.
“Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please. That is part of religious freedom. My own church, the Catholic Church, will not marry someone who has married before,” he said.
Australia’s Bureau of Statistics started sending out forms this week asking around 16 million registered Australians: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” The results of the poll are to be announced in November.
Turnbull confirmed that if the public votes in favour of marriage equality, as expected, the government will present a bill in parliament in order to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.