September 21

Marriage equality divides Greek Australians

first_imgAs of last Saturday, Ireland is the 19th country in the world to legalise marriage for same-sex couples, leaving Australia as the only advanced English speaking nation with no legislation on the matter.“The position of the Orthodox Church worldwide – not only in Australia – can never depart from the teaching of Holy Scripture. Archbishop StylianosIn a historic referendum, the firmly Catholic country blew the myth that its decisions are filtered by the church, with 3.2 million people voting ‘yes’ to gay marriage. The overwhelming result was backed by a turnout that exceeded 62 per cent, with 43 constituencies in favour and only one against. With across the board support within the Irish parliament, the legislation is likely to apply by the end of the year. Ireland’s decision has already had an impact on the debate down under. Within days Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced that Labor will introduce a bill in favour of marriage equality next week, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly set the conditions for a conscience vote in the Liberal party room, which could result in a parliamentary vote as early as August.Debate on the issue is likely to impact the Greek Australian community significantly. Archbishop Stylianos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, said this week that the Church’s position on marriage requires “an adequate understanding of how the term ‘marriage’ is understood, not only in the community of the faithful, but also its broader societal implications”.“The position of the Orthodox Church worldwide – not only in Australia – can never depart from the teaching of Holy Scripture. The union between a man and a woman in the sacrament of marriage reflects the union between Christ and His Church,” the Archbishop told Neos Kosmos.“Our purpose is not that government legislation should become a ‘tool’ to impose Christian ethics upon fellow citizens who do not share our beliefs. This of course would not be legitimate, given that we respect the free will of all. “Rather, our concern is that the very institution of marriage, which has a Christian tradition of two entire millennia, should remain as it is, and not be confused with the political debate concerning the legal status of same-sex unions.”Meanwhile the Greek Australian gay community welcomed the Irish referendum result as a motivating force for change in Australia.Speaking to Neos Kosmos, the administrator of the Greek and Gay Facebook group in Australia, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There is a separation of Church and State in Australia – and this should remain at all levels. The Church is entitled to its own opinions as are we [but] the marriage act changes proposed, solely impact on civil marriage – and as such do not impact on any Church in Australia.” “The Greek Australian gay community has been offering support to its members for over 20 years, yet it’s been very private in that aspect. We struggle to get the message out there, it’s falling on deaf ears within the Greek community,” he said.“I’ve got two children who are very supportive of me. The ones that have the problem with gay marriage in Australia are our ageing families”. “Many Greek migrants like my mother, even though they were treated as a second class race upon their arrival, have forgotten what they’ve gone through, and are acting like they own this country holding the same mindset as when they left Greece decades ago…”“It’s time these issues of racism and sexuality need to be addressed. All human beings should be regarded as equal in the eyes of the law.” One of the first Greek Australian politicians to comment on the marriage equality debate since the Irish vote has been Senator Nick Xenophon. “It is a conscience vote for me,” he told Neos Kosmos. “I regard the right of a person to hold their religious beliefs as fundamental in a free society. But beyond religion and religious beliefs, I also believe in the law, and our laws should apply equally to all.” Senator Xenophon said that a conscience vote on marriage equality could take place within weeks, while a referendum could be as much as two years away.“If the conscience vote fails then a referendum needs to be pushed for. It’s too important for too many people.”**We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on this website, but we will consider removing any content and comments that others might find extremely offensive or threatening. Please respect other people’s views and beliefs and consider your impact on others when making your contribution.** Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more