KEEP IT CIVIL: The Catholic church has joined same-sex marriage advocates in calling for calm and respectful debate
KEEP IT CIVIL: The Catholic church has joined same-sex marriage advocates in calling for calm and respectful debate Jonno Colfs

Common ground as church joins same-sex marriage advocates in call to 'keep it civil'

OPPOSING sides in the same-sex marriage debate have found at least some common ground, as advocates both for and against predict an abusive campaign.

In what may seem a reversal of roles, Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge this weekend will issue a plea for tolerance of the church viewpoint, saying he fears vilification of those against the proposal and a divisive debate based on propaganda and slogans.

It is the same fear expressed by same-sex marriage advocates in the lead-up to the plebiscite vote of all Australians on the subject, that plebiscite now expected in November.

The plebiscite is one-sided to the extent that it is only binding if the answer is no.

If the answer is yes, the question of changing the Marriage Act to have it include same-sex unions will be put to a free vote of federal MPs.

Gympie's Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien says he will abide by the expressed will of the people at that plebiscite.

Civil Liberties Australia says the state has a legitimate role in determining the nature of unions regarded as marriages and regulated under Family Law, but secretary Bill Rowlings says the institution should be equally available to all.

Although all couples, including same-sex couples, have a right to enter into civil agreements, this is not the same thing as a marriage regulated under Family Law, he told The Gympie Times this week.

But while some family arrangements may be "civil” in one sense, there is the risk the debate will not be, it is now widely claimed.

In Sunday's Catholic Leader, Archbishop Coleridge will warn against too much "ideology” in the debate and too much "slick marketing.”

His statement, issued exclusively to The Gympie Times earlier in the week, is officially released as of Sunday.

Acknowledging divisions in the community on the issue, he said: "One of the problems is that so much ideology and slick marketing have infected the public debate.”

In what almost could be an echo of the complaints of same-sex marriage advocates, the Archbishop says, "The political mess also shows how divided the community is on the issue.

"We're told that polls show large support for same-sex marriage around the nation, but that may be more in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne than, say, rural Queensland.

"Everyone agrees that justice for all is basic to any healthy society, but we don't all agree that same-sex marriage is a sign of either.

"That doesn't mean that those who don't favour same-sex marriage are brutes or bigots.

"It simply means they have a different understanding,” he said.