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Equality advocates seek mtg with Cardinal Pell

“Many Catholics will rightly wonder why the Church instructs them to lobby against two people making a lifelong commitment, when poverty, war and the plight of refugees remain such critical local and global issues.”

- Peter Furness, Acting Convener, AME

In the wake of revelations that the Catholic Church is urging parishioners to lobby MPs against same-sex marriage, Australia’s marriage equality advocates have written to Cardinal George Pell seeking a meeting to explain that allowing same-sex civil marriages will not change the Church’s definition of marriage and to urge an end to the Church campaign.

Australian Marriage Equality Acting National Convener, Peter Furness, said allowing same-sex couples to marry under civil law will not limit the Church’s right to decide who it does and does not marry.

“Just as the Church may refuse to marry divorced partners, even though they can marry under civil law, so the Church will still be able to turn away same-sex partners, even when the law is changed to allow us to marry”, Mr Furness said.

“We want a meeting with Cardinal Pell to ask him to respect the right of same-sex couples to marry under civil law in the same way we respect the right of the Catholic church not to marry same-sex couples.”

Mr Furness said the Church’s instructions to ordinary Catholics to lobby against marriage equality is a breach of the division between church and state, will alienate progressive Catholics, and may incite broader discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Catholics.

“Many Catholics will rightly wonder why the Church instructs them to lobby against two people making a lifelong commitment, when poverty, war and the plight of refugees remain such critical local and global issues.”

“This kind of anti-equality campaign will inevitably incite discrimination and prejudice against GLBT people, with a particularly negative impact on young people and those in the Church.”

Today’s Australian newspaper reports that the Church has issued instructions to parishioners to lobby their local MP against marriage equality, complete with detailed talking points against the reform that attempt to play down religion and emphasise the link between marriage and procreation.

Mr Furness said, “AME has also launched a campaign asking supporters of reform to lobby their local MPs, in which we emphasise that heterosexuals of different faiths or no faith are allowed to marry, as are heterosexuals who cannot have children.

“Why should there be a different standard for same-sex partners?’

For more information contact Peter Furness on 0428 848 723.

For the original news story:


For more on the Catholic Church campaign against marriage equality:


For AME’s campaign to encourage supporters of marriage equality to visit MPs:


The letter to Cardinal Pell will follow.


20 December 2010

His Eminence

Cardinal George Pell

Archbishop of Sydney


Re: Civil and religious same-sex marriages

Your Eminence,

On behalf of the committee and members of Australian Marriage Equality, I request a meeting with you to discuss the issue of allowing same-sex partners to marry under the Marriage Act 1961.

We are concerned by reports that some Catholic clergy are instructing their parishioners to lobby our national leaders against allowing same-sex civil marriages.

One of our concerns is that this appears to be undue involvement by the clergy in a debate about the reform of a civil law.

Another is that the reported action of some members of the clergy will unnecessarily inflame discrimination and prejudice against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, particularly young people and those in the Church.

We ask for a meeting in order to:

1. Assure you that the Marriage Act amendments we seek will not force any clergy to marry partners against their convictions. This means that Catholic clergy will able to refuse to marry same-sex partners in the same way they may currently refuse to marry divorced partners, and

2. In the light of the above undertaking, seek an assurance that, in their clerical capacity, Catholic clergy will not actively campaign against civil marriage for same-sex partners.

In short, just as we respect your right to not marry same-sex partners in religious ceremonies, we ask that you respect our right to marry under civil law. This seems appropriate in a tolerant, modern democracy such as ours.

If your Eminence agrees to a meeting with us, we ask that we may bring a same-sex couple married under the civil law of another country to explain how allowing same-sex civil marriages has not interfered with the right of churches to define religious marriages.

We understand that some of the clergy who are using their clerical role to advocate against reform may not be under your direct authority as Archbishop of Sydney, but we write to you, nonetheless, because of the authority your role as Cardinal gives you in the Australian Catholic Church.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Furness

Acting National Convenor


Address:  PO Box 158  Broadway  NSW  2007

Website:  www.australianmarriageequality.org