ROD Bower is the outspoken Anglican priest who would marry gay couples if he could – but he can’t – and who slams any moves to drag out the same sex marriage issue on the grounds of religious freedom.
“In my view the only theological foundation on which church people can make claims on religious freedoms is by fighting for the freedoms of others,” said the Gosford priest who expects an overwhelming “Yes” vote for same sex marriage to be announced at 10am on Wednesday.
He also predicts severe electoral punishment for politicians who try to delay passing legislation to legalise same sex marriage by proposing alternative legislation allowing “conscientious objection” exemptions.
“That’s legislation ensuring certain religious freedoms to discriminate. It shows that conservatives are already circling the wagons on this one and trying to turn it into a religious freedom debate,” Father Bower said.
“The problem is they’re trying to make an alternative framework of discrimination. For businesses to be allowed to discriminate on the basis of same sex marriage also allows them to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, which is totally unacceptable and unmanageable. You don’t extend civil rights by denying the civil rights of others.”
The argument that cake makers and florists should be able to deny their services to a same sex couple wanting to be married “would create a whole level of other problems just to satisfy a small number of conservatives”.
“It’s a ridiculous over-response. At the end of the day, if you’re in the cake business and you’re not prepared to serve a section of the community, perhaps you shouldn’t be in the cake business.”
Father Bower said the legislation proposed by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, which could be put to parliament as early as Thursday if the same sex postal survey returns a “Yes” majority, had no effect on church representatives like himself and the Anglican sacrament of marriage.
He expected to attend same sex marriages in future as a guest, and knew same sex couples keen to marry when they legally can, but “I won’t be able to marry them and I don’t see that changing ”.