AN unprecedented alliance of church, family and ethnic groups will unite under a single banner to campaign against same-sex marriage.
The Daily Telegraph has learned leading representatives of all the major church denominations have met over the past several weeks to finalise a formal cross-faith and cross-denominational coalition to support the “no case” in a plebiscite.
It is understood at least 40 religious denominations, ethnic groups, charities and family-based organisations have signed up to a memorandum of understanding under an organisation to be called Australians for Marriage.
The faith-based coalition, which is expected to number more than 100 groups when finalised, would claim to represent a congregation and membership of between four and six million Australians.
So far it is believed that Catholic, Anglican, Maronite, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God and other Christian denominations have signed, as have prominent family and ethnic associations.
The coalition, however, is expected to end up being much broader with likely representatives of other major faiths, including both Islam and Judaism.
The alliance will argue that it is not a question of the church versus “everyone else” but a coalition reflecting a broad section of the Australian community.
It will pit the alliance against an already powerful lobby pressing the case in favour of same-sex marriage.
Sources involved in the establishment of the group said the memorandum of understanding was a charter to co-ordinate a national campaign against changing the Marriage Act to remove gender.
“There appears to be an ever-growing groundswell of concern in the community about this major social change and its consequences,” an alliance source said.
“All voices should be heard on this issue and the guiding mission of this group will be to ensure the voice of mainstream of Australia is heard.”
The fate of the plebiscite now rests with Labor leader Bill Shorten after three Senate members of the Nick Xenophon Team confirmed they would side with the Greens and vote against enabling legislation for a plebiscite, claiming the issue should be resolved by a vote of the parliament.
So far it is believed that Catholic, Anglican, Maronite, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God and other Christian denominations have signed the memorandum, as have prominent family and ethnic associations.
Mr Shorten, who was a minister in the Gillard government that ensured the defeat of a gay marriage bill in 2012, is now arguing for a free vote of MPs on the issue.
Same-sex marriage lobby group Australian Marriage Equality has called for all political parties to work together to deliver an outcome to support marriage equality.
“We will continue to meet with MPs across all political parties to build a consensus that achieves equality for Australians,” AME chair Alex Greenwich said.