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Church cancels wedding after Facebook gay marriage post

Australia ’ s prime minister Friday defended a church ’ s right not to marry some couples following reports a woman’ s wedding was cancelled after she posted support for same -sex marriage on Facebook ahead of a national vote.

A voluntary postal ballot involving up to 15 million Australians on whether gay marriage should be legalised is underway, with the results due in mid-November .

The survey is non -binding but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed to hold a vote in parliament if the majority of Australians choose “ yes ”.

The poll has attracted heated debate from the “ yes ” and “ no” campaigns, with some prominent clergy speaking out against such unions, warning that legalising them could infringe on religious freedom .

Fairfax Media reported Friday that one couple were due to be married in the rural town of Ballarat in Victoria , but after the bride-to-be posted support for changing marriage laws on Facebook she was told the church minister would no longer officiate .

“ You must surely appreciate that your commitment to same -sex marriage opposes the teaching of Christ Jesus and the scriptural position practised by the Presbyterian Church of Australia and by me , ” the minister wrote in a letter to the bride provided to Fairfax .

“ This conflict of views has practical consequences in relation to your upcoming wedding . By continuing to officiate it would appear… that I support your views on same -sex marriage or that I am uncaring about this matter . ”

The church , Ebenezer St John’ s, had no immediate comment Friday , but Turnbull defended the minister ’ s decision, saying “ churches are free to marry whoever they like”.

“ Churches are entitled to marry or not marry whom they please . That is part of religious freedom . My own church , the Catholic Church , will not marry someone who has married before, ” he told reporters in Canberra .

Turnbull , a moderate who supports same -sex marriage , is opposed by some members of his conservative ruling Liberal-National coalition on the issue and the postal vote is seen as a compromise .

“ No ” campaigners say changing the laws could impact the church , but both Turnbull and Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten — who also supports gay marriage — have said religious freedom would be protected under any reforms .

Parliament on Wednesday passed election -style safeguards restricting campaign material that might be misleading and deceptive during the ballot period, amid fears the vote could unleash a barrage of homophobia.

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