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Australian PM Defends Church’s Religious Freedom to Refuse to Marry Couple Over Same-Sex Marriage Views

Amidst Australia's nation-wide vote on whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage, the pro-same-sex marriage Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come out in favor of a church's absolute right to choose whether or not to marry couples. Turnbull defended a church's religious freedom to refuse to marry a couple after the bride posted her support for same-sex marriage on social media.

"Churches are free to marry whoever they like," Turnbull said on Friday, Reuters reported. "As strongly as I believe in the right of same-sex couples to marry, religious freedom is fundamental and it will be protected in any bill that emerges from this Parliament."

Turnbull, who has long supported same-sex marriage, defended the minister of a Presbyterian church in the southern state of Victoria. This minister told a young couple in their twenties that they would not be allowed to hold their ceremony in his church after the bride posted on Facebook her intention to vote for same-sex marriage.

The issue of religious freedom has divided Turnbull's governing coalition, putting his control of Parliament in jeopardy.

Australia is in the middle of a non-compulsory, non-binding poll to inform Parliament as to whether or not it should become the 25th country to legalize same-sex marriage. The poll runs until the end of October.

While religious freedom is guaranteed in Australia's constitution, conservatives opposing same-sex marriage have argued that in countries where such unions are legal, religious freedom and parental rights have fallen under fire.

Indeed, in the United States — where the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 — many Christians who gladly serve LGBT people in their normal business have been attacked by the government for refusing to serve same-sex weddings. Notable example include Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, and Colorado baker Jack Philips (whose case will come before the Supreme Court).

In fact, at least one LGBT group in Ohio announced its plans to target churches to force religious organizations to host same-sex weddings, regardless of their faith positions on marriage being between a man and a woman. In discussing cases where religious business owners choose to opt-out of serving same-sex weddings, openly gay megadonor Tim Gill declared, "We're going to punish the wicked."

In England, the speaker of the House of Commons recently declared that same-sex marriage won't be "proper" unless churches cannot opt out from celebrating it. "I still feel we'll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right," Commons Speaker John Bercow said.