SEVERAL local churches have weighed in on the same-sex marriage debate.
The issue is back on the agenda after a Greens motion to gauge community support for gay marriage was passed by the federal House of Representatives this month.
The Western Advocate has followed the debate. Local residents were in favour of same-sex marriage, according to an online poll and a random street poll.
But Federal Member for Calare John Cobb, State Member for Bathurst Gerard Martin and Bathurst mayor Paul Toole all opposed same-sex marriage.
Now, the churches have had their say.
Catholic Bishop Michael McKenna responded to the Advocate’s questions with a prepared statement.
“In the Catholic Church, marriage is a life-long, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, open to the generation of children,” he wrote.
“Clearly, a same-sex marriage, even if recognised in state or Commonwealth law, would not be regarded as a marriage in that sense.”
St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Tim Abbey said the Bible was clear in its definition of marriage.
“God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman,” he said. “But this should never be taken as the church picking on or singling out homosexuals. We reach out to them and love them.”
Reverend Abbey said he was worried churches would lose their relevance if they “went with the times” by condoning same-sex marriage.
“Sometimes we have to say the hard things,” he said.
“The thing that saddens me most is that, in essence, it’s not listening to God. Con-doning same-sex marriage is turning away from what God has taught us in the Bible.
“God is valid today, tomorrow and in a million years.”
Reverend Abbey said the Presbyterian Church would not allow same-sex marriage if it was legalised.
“They can’t legislate that people must go to church,” he said. “And they can’t legislate that we must conduct same-sex marriages.”
Reverend Abbey said it was positive that the debate was making people think about whether or not they should listen to God.
Bathurst Baptist Church pastor Gary Baker said homosexuality was not part of God’s overall plan for humanity.
“But we do recognise that we are all called to love as followers of Jesus,” he said.
“The message is to love the sinner, not the sin.”
Pastor Baker said parliament should openly and clearly debate all issues that affect society, including same-sex marriage.
“Core issues in society shouldn’t go unnoticed,” he said. “But sadly, two to three per cent of the population, who are homosexual, are driving an agenda which is dividing the nation. Should the issue of a minority be debated above something like the environment, which affects us all.”
Pastor Baker said God’s view of family was of a male and a female procreating for children and that the Baptist Church’s stance on same-sex marriage would not change.
Simon Coomans has been a marriage celebrant for 12 months and he supports same-sex marriage.
“I’m all for equality in society,” he said. “I haven’t yet done a commitment ceremony but I’m more than happy to.”
Simon said people in same-sex relationships should have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
“This includes marriage,” he said. “Not all same-sex couples want to get married, the same as some heterosexual couples don’t. It’s a personal choice that society should allow.”
But Simon said all people were entitled to their opinion.
“We’re lucky we live in a free democratic country and that we can express our opinions,” he said. “It is important to have informed community debates.”
Despite Simon’s support for legalising same-sex marriage, he said there were clear laws on the issue, which he followed.
“We have to follow the Marriage Act, as Gillard keeps quoting,” he said. “Otherwise we lose our status.”
The Marriage Act states that marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
n A Western Advocate online poll has found strong support for same-sex marriage.
Of the 235 respondents, 56.2 per cent said they supported same-sex marriage while 31.5 per cent said they did not. The remaining 12.3 per cent were undecided.