Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher has said the government should “keep out of the bedroom”, while also urging people to vote against same-sex marriage.
Under current laws in Australia, marriage must be between a man and a woman, but the government is circulating a non-binding survey on the issue measuring support for reform.
Addressing parishioners in a congregation on Sunday, the archbishop said legalising same-sex marriage could result in religious believers losing their jobs and businesses.
“The state has no business telling us who we should love and how, sexually or otherwise,” he told the St Mary’s Cathedral congregation.
“The only kind of friendship the state has a proper interest in recognising and regulating is heterosexual marriage, because that’s what leads to children – new citizens – and gives them the best start in life.”
The archbishop said it was better for children to have a mother and a father and this was what marriage was for.
He also claimed religious people faced discrimination if same-sex marriage was legalised.
“Traditional believers will be vulnerable to discrimination suits and other kinds of bullying for their beliefs. Some may lose their jobs, promotions, businesses, political careers,” he said.
Discussion of same-sex marriage has become heated in Australia and in September the Senate passed legislation banning intimidation, threats and vilification during the vote, which runs until 15 November.
Some 16 million people are eligible to vote in the survey, but unlike Australian elections, the poll is voluntary, meaning participation is expected to be low.
Opinion polls put the Yes vote in the lead. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose government is divided over the issue, has urged Australians to vote in favour of reform.
“I can assure you that if the postal vote delivers a Yes vote, and I encourage Australians to vote Yes and I will be voting Yes, then I have no doubt the legislation will sail through the Parliament,” he said.