The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, and leading Catholic officials have written to Malcolm Turnbull demanding that any proposed bill on same-sex marriage be released before Australians vote on the issue, The Australian reports.
With the Senate yesterday rejecting for a second time the government’s preferred option of a compulsory attendance plebiscite, the first salvos have been fired in a campaign to derail the people’s postal vote, which will begin within five weeks.
Opposing forces in the debate are lining up against the government, with Church and Christian schools lobby groups demanding religious and freedom-of-speech protections, both during the public debate and in any bill on gay marriage that is put to the parliament should a “yes” vote be returned.
Religious figures have raised concerns directly with the Prime Minister about voter fraud, religious protections and public funding for the campaign.
A senior government source confirmed that a letter had been delivered to the Prime Minister’s office and several cabinet ministers, signed by Archbishop Davies and delivering a series of blunt questions that he said the government had yet to answer.
A similar letter is believed to have been received from senior leaders of the Catholic Church.
“This timeframe is inappropriately short, particularly given there remain a number of unresolved questions concerning the postal plebiscite process,” Archbishop Davies wrote.
The leading national yes lobby, Equality Campaign, and the Human Rights Law Centre said they were waiting to assess what legal challenge might be mounted against the plebiscite when more details were released.
The Australian Christian Schools Association is planning a campaign to ensure religious protections for schools are guaranteed, claiming neither Mr Turnbull nor Bill Shorten had offered a firm commitment to schools that their teachings of traditional marriage would be protected.
The list of issues raised by Archbishop Davies in his letter to Mr Turnbull included assurances that public funding would be made available to both sides.
It asked if religious leaders would be engaged in preparation of the bill and “if a postal plebiscite is resolved in the negative, what assurances can be provided that this will be the end of the matter?”.
Churches lay out plebiscite fears for PM (The Australian)
'We love our children': Penny Wong's Senate speech about marriage plebiscite (Sydney Morning Herald)