We’d have allowed the marriage, but churches have their rights: Ballarat religious leaders

Civil celebrant Ron Egeberg (left) and Anglican Ballarat diocese Vicar-General Scott Lowrey (right).

Civil celebrant Ron Egeberg (left) and Anglican Ballarat diocese Vicar-General Scott Lowrey (right).

Ballarat church leaders have supported the right of ministers to refuse to marry couples that support same-sex marriage.

Ebenezer St John’s Presbyterian minister Steve North’s cancelled a wedding at his church after the bride-to-be posted support for marriage equality on Facebook.

Anglican Ballarat diocese Vicar-General Scott Lowrey said he would be “more than surprised” if a priest investigated couple’s Facebook posts before marrying them.

“Couples or individual Anglicans are able to express their own opinion as much as they like,” he said.

“But in the case of a couple coming to get married, the focus is on the love and affection of the couple coming for a wedding.

“If someone posted something on a Facebook page, and I found out about it, that is their Facebook page and they are entitled to their own opinion.

“As long as it doesn’t affect their relationship with each other – which I would think it wouldn’t.”

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The Anglican church has left the decision to an individual’s conscious, but Presbyterian ministers and congregations have been told to oppose same-sex marriage.

The couple also decided they would no longer attend Ebenezer St John’s church.

Civil celebrant Ron Egeberg said the situation proved religious freedoms would remain intact for churches.

“I have no right to tell a church what they can and can’t do, I don’t believe religious organisations have a right to claim ownership of marriage,” he said.

“It is a civil right and a legal matter, it is two people committing to each other by law.

“Religious groups will make it known what they can, will or won’t do.”

Ditchy's view.

Ditchy's view.

Fr Lowrey said he thought there was most likely majority support for same-sex marriage withing the Anglican Ballarat diocese.

“Even though it is a relatively conservative area, there will be a similar split to that nationally, of two thirds yes and one third no,” he said.

“There would be a spread of people who will vote in favour and those voting no.”