Churches can't be forced to adopt gay marriage if 'yes' campaign wins, says Biblical scholar

Christian churches and other religious organizations cannot be forced to adopt same-sex marriage even if the "yes" campaign wins in Australia's ongoing postal survey on the issue, according to a Biblical scholar from Trinity College.

(AAP / Joe Castro / via REUTERS)Supporters of same-sex marriage in Australia are seen outside the High Court in Melbourne, Australia, September 7, 2017.

In an op-ed published on ABC Online on Oct. 1, Robyn Whitaker said there should be no change in the doctrines and rituals of Christian churches and other religious organizations if the Federal Government decides to modify its definition of marriage. She explained that churches must first willingly alter its policy before its ordained ministers can officiate gay weddings even if the civil law changes.

Aside from that, Whitaker pointed out that ministers have the discretion to refuse to officiate a wedding ceremony if they think that the couple is not prepared, is too young, or there is some kind of abuse. This discretion, she explained, is covered by the clergy's religious freedom and this has been the case in the several changes to civil marriage laws in the last 120 years.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated that 57.5 percent (9.2 million) of the 16 million voting forms have been returned since the postal survey on same-sex marriage began. The information comes as supporters of the "yes" party vowed to continue campaigning until the deadline of the national survey, The Huffington Post reported.

"We hope that this update will serve as a reminder to those who have not submitted their form to do so promptly if they wish to have their say," said Jonathan Palmer, the Deputy Statistician and Taskforce Lead of ABS.

A survey conducted for the Equality Campaign has reportedly found that 77 percent of the enrolled voters have already submitted their forms to the ABS. Meanwhile, another poll commissioned by the same group revealed that Australian women play a major role in the "yes" vote, since they can also relate to the fight for equal treatment.

The results of the postal vote on same-sex marriage are expected to be announced on Nov. 15.