New Zealand's first gay couple to be legally wed, Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali, are thought to have parted.
New Zealand's first gay couple to be legally wed, Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali, are thought to have parted.

Catholic Bishops enter election fray over gay marriage

AUSTRALIA'S most highly-ranked Catholic bishops have entered the political fray by calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

The 2016 election statement due to be released on Monday will be a thorn in the side of the Coalition Government, which has vowed to hold a plebiscite on the issue after the election.

Australian Marriage Equality estimates 72% of Australians support same-sex marriage, including 59% of Christians and 85% of people with children.

Fairfax Media reports the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference will tell both government and Opposition that "political decisions" can hurt families and damage the institution of marriage.

"The fact is that economic decisions have been less and less favourable to families in recent years; and it may be that political decisions in the future will undermine further the dignity and uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union of man and woman.

"Support for marriage and the family does not look a big vote-winner, so that even the most basic human institution, upon which the health of a society depends, can become part of the throwaway culture or at best an optional extra."

Labor has already vowed to make same-sex marriage legal within 100 days if it is elected.

The Conference rarely makes political statements during election campaigns, unlike minor Christian advocacy groups.

However, in 2015 it circulated a pastoral letter on the debate titled, "Don't Mess With Marriage".

In it, the Conference suggests that it is not discriminatory to keep marriage exclusively for men and women.

"If marriage is an institution designed to support people of the opposite sex to be faithful to each other and to the children of their union it is not discrimination to reserve it to them."

It goes on:

Indeed, in this pastoral letter we argue that what is unjust - gravely unjust - is:

•to legitimise the false assertion that there is nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother;

•to ignore the particular values that real marriage serves;

•to ignore the importance for children of having, as far as possible, a mum and a dad, committed to them and to each other for the long haul;

•to destabilize marriage further at a time when it is already under considerable pressure; and

•to change retrospectively the basis upon which all existing married couples got married.

Already Coalition Senators Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz have warned that regardless of how Australians vote in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, they would vote against changing the legislation.

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