The Australian Labor Party candidate for the seat of Hume, Michael Pilbrow, has named legalizing same-sex marriage as one of his top priorities if elected.
Pilbrow, a Pentecostal Christian, told the Goulburn Post that he saw no problem with allowing same-sex couples to marry and said the current law interfered with the separation of church and state.
‘The issue with the current Marriage Act is that the state has its fingers inside churches,’ Pilbrow told the paper.
‘A Church Minister, a Jewish Rabbi, a Buddhist Monk, [the leader of] whatever religion, or even a celebrant doing a non-religious ceremony is doing that as an agent of the state… and it is mixing the religious aspect of it up with the legal aspect of recognizing relationships.’
‘If I was elected I’d like to bring in a private members bill that would say let’s have a third option rather than the two that are being offered, which is to deal with the issue of the separation between church and state in marriage.’
Pilbrow said under his plan all committed relationships would be registered by the state and given equal standing.
Churches and civil celebrants would then be free to issue marriage certificates to whichever couples they thought were appropriate.
Churches that approved of same-sex marriage would be allowed to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples while churches that disapproved of them would be allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
‘[Marriage] should be outside the control of the state in the same way that the state doesn’t interfere in how a church does baptism or Christening or how a Jewish temple does a bar mitzvah and I don’t think the state should be involved in what religious organizations do,’ Pilbrow said.
‘I understand that this is a new thing that I am putting on the table and it is coming from the standpoint of a Christian. I am Christian and I believe in the separation of church and state because I think that it is in the best interests of both the church and the state.’
Pilbrow said churches should not feel threatened by his idea.
‘It is not coming from an anti-religious standpoint but it says to churches, “Do you realize by having things the way they are [now] you are actually allowing the government to handle an element of your affairs?”’
Pilbrow said that under his plan all registered relationships would be referred to legally as either ‘civil unions’ or ‘civil marriages’ but he had not decided which yet and would consult with the community before making that decision.
Pilbrow is hoping to take the seat from the opposition Liberal Party who’s leader Tony Abbott is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and is refusing to allow his MPs a conscience vote on the issue.
Australia goes to the polls on September 14.