THIRTY-EIGHT religious leaders from Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions have defended the existing definition of marriage in a public letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The leaders called on Mr Abbott to resist attempts in Federal Parliament to redefine the meaning of marriage.
“At a time when marriage is already under significant strains and pressures, we urge you to do all that you can to support marriage – not undermine its meaning and importance, most of all, for children,” the leaders stated in the public letter dated Friday, June 5.
The letter came at a time when Mr Abbott was under increasing pressure from Coalition MPs on both sides of the debate.
On June 1, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introduced a private member’s bill to near-empty Government benches to legislate same-sex marriage.
The House of Representatives voted to adjourn debate.
Signatories to the June 5 public letter included the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney, a bishop of the Lutheran Church, bishops from various Eastern and Orthodox Churches, Christian pastors representing major Protestant denominations, senior rabbis from the Jewish community and leaders from both the Sunni and Shia Islamic communities.
The 38 leaders all supported “The definition of marriage enshrined in the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 – ‘the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’ – (which) reflects a truth deeply embedded across diverse communities, faiths and cultures.”
“To uphold marriage as the mutual love of a man and a woman, open to the gift of children, is not bigotry or prejudice,” the leaders wrote.
“At many times throughout history, and sadly still today in some places, people with same-sex attraction have suffered injustice.
“This is to be deplored.
“But this does not require the further deconstruction of marriage as traditionally understood.”
The public letter described marriage as playing a “crucial role” as “nursery for the future of the community”.
It also said “Australia’s definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman is consistent with that of the vast majority of world nations, who represent over 91 per cent of the global population”.
They said redefining marriage would have consequences for everyone.
“In overseas jurisdictions where the definition of marriage has been changed, the public manifestation of this belief has resulted in vilification and legal punishment of individuals and institutions.
“This violates not only freedom of religion, but also the rights of conscience, belief and association, and the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs.”