Sandhurst Bishop calls for 'respectful' same-sex marriage debate, says changes will have 'deeper effects'

Bishop of Sandhurst Les Tomlinson.

Bishop of Sandhurst Les Tomlinson.

BENDIGO’S most senior Catholic has called for a respectful debate on same-sex marriage, but says changing the Marriage Act would have “deeper effects”.

Bishop of Sandhurst Les Tomlinson released a statement on Thursday blaming both sides of the debate for relying on “emotional and sometimes disrespectful” arguments, while reiterating the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Bishop Tomlinson pointed to a document from the Catholic Bishops of Australia that says marriage equality would “destabilise marriage further”, and that same-sex relationships were “very different” to heterosexual relationships.

The document is titled Don’t Mess With Marriage.

Bishop Tomlinson said the Catholic Church’s first concern was for the “wellbeing of all people”.

“While our definition and teaching on marriage is well known, indeed our view has been clearly defined for almost 2000 years, our view is that each person, regardless of their ethnicity, creed, gender, sexuality, age or ability is worthy of dignity and respect,” he wrote.

“As the secular society seeks to answer the question as to whether it redefines marriage, I pray that we treat each other with respect and not resort to emotive or insulting language or behaviour.

“By restricting ourselves to emotional arguments, we ignore exploring the deeper effects of changing the definition and restrict ourselves to a superficial level of debate.”

Postal ballots will be mailed to registered voters across Australia in the coming weeks. The result is non-binding and will cost taxpayers $122 million.

In 2004, former Prime Minister John Howard took less than an hour to draft legislation banning same-sex couples from marrying.

Bendigo’s LGBTI community consistently opposed the plebiscite, fearing for the impact of a divisive debate.

Last year, Bendigo Queer Film Festival secretary Tashara Roberts said it was unfair for there to be a plebiscite on same-sex rights, as there was never one on straight rights.

In 2013, the ABC Vote Compass placed Bendigo 112th out of 150 electorates according to its opposition to marriage equality. A University of Melbourne study found 30 per cent of Bendigo residents opposed changes to the Marriage Act.

Bendigo’s Quaker community also supported marriage equality.

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