Religion plays strong role in voting as church wants protections

A senior Anglican leader has declared that ” has spoken and we shall respect that result” on same-sex marriage as church figures broadly warned they would continue pushing for religious protections.
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Faith played a heavy role in determining voting patterns, underscoring the role that religious leaders could play in carving out protections as the Parliament looks to legislate.

The highest “yes” votes came in areas where at least four in 10 people have no religious affiliation, whereas areas with high numbers of Muslims and Catholics, particularly in the suburbs of western Sydney, voted most strongly against same-sex marriage.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies, who had strongly backed the “no” campaign including with a $1 million donation, said he accepted the result, which he said gave “a clear mandate for the Parliament to legislate for same-sex marriage”.

“It won’t prevent my continuing to hold my view and espouse my views. I still believe that marriage in God’s plan for society is between a man and a woman but I respect the will of the voting population,” he said.

But he called for respect for the nearly five million people who had opposed change. Dr Davies said religious organisations should not be carved out as specific exemptions but rather Parliament should ensure the “positive right” of any n to “freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion”.

“We’re not to be pushed into some kind of marginalised exemption in anti-discrimination legislation,” he said. “That is to trivialise the situation and not recognised freedom as a key principle and value in n society of conscience.”

He said moderate Liberal Senator Dean Smith’s draft bill was “wholly inadequate to address the issue”.

Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier said: “The church accepts the result and it is now time for a political debate about the way forward.”

n Catholic Bishops Conference president and Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart declined to be interviewed but released a statement that – while not actually acknowledging the clear “yes” majority – demanded religious protections from Parliament.

“These protections must ensure that ns can continue to express their views on marriage, that faith-based schools can continue to teach the traditional understanding of marriage and that organisations can continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with those values,” he said.

The n National Imams Council – which represents a range of Muslim clerics – did not return phone calls.

The Uniting Church – the third largest Christian denomination – referred interview requests to a previous statement which acknowledged there were a range of views across the church.

Dr Davies said any Anglican priest who married a same-sex couple would be going against the teaching of the Bible and the church and “some disciplinary measure could be brought against him”.

The n Bureau of Statistics’ breakdown of the survey showed federal electorates that voted most strongly against same-sex marriage, particularly in western Sydney, had high proportions of Muslims and Catholics – often adding up to nearly half the seat – but small non-religious populations making up about only 12 or 13 per cent of residents.

The strongest yes-voting seats tended to have about four out of 10 residents who had declared no religious affiliation. Those included the inner-city seats of Melbourne and Sydney, Melbourne Ports and Grayndler.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney seat of Wentworth, which also made the top-five electorates to vote yes, was slightly different at one-third non-religious and one-fifth Catholic.

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