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Palmer's Gay Marriage Proposal Would See Churches Given All The Power

The church will have the power to discriminate on who gets a "marriage" under the plan.

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Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer has proclaimed his "solution to Australia's marriage laws" is remove "marriage" entirely from Australian law and give it back to churches.

Palmer announced his interesting plan on Friday, claiming the only way to "bring greater unity" to Australia is to scrap marriage laws and replace them with civil unions.

"Marriage must be taken out of all Australian government legislation and must be left to the sole jurisdiction of the churches," said Palmer.

The plan would involve the government giving out civil unions to couples, then handing over power to churches to decide whether it should be called a "marriage".

"Any couple who has a civil union can be married if a church consents to admit them to marriage. Marriage should be the sole preserve of the churches, as it goes to the core religious belief of individuals."

The leader of the Palmer United Party has seen his power in the Australian parliament dwindle, with two senators becoming independents. Palmer will run again in the seat of Fairfax at next year's election and the marriage announcement will form part of the PUP's pre-election policy platform.

A spokesperson for Palmer told BuzzFeed News it's about trying to break the deadlock between Coalition and Labor policy on marriage equality. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his party supports taking marriage equality to a national plebiscite if he wins the next election.

But Palmer incorrectly said Labor also supported a plebiscite. The opposition has announced it doesn't support a national vote but would rather legislate for marriage equality if they win the next election.

Palmer said the "drop marriage" policy would bring the community together because people would have the same rights with their civil unions and churches would not be compelled to marry same-sex couples.

UPDATE 1500AEST: Marriage equality advocates responded to Palmer's proposal, claiming it's not a very good idea.

The Greens senator Robert Simms claimed rather than creating division, it would increase division.

"This civil scheme would exist alongside marriage and create a hierarchy of relationship recognition. It certainly wouldn't solve discrimination," he said in a statement.

Head of Australia's peak marriage equality group, AME, Rodney Croome said Palmer's concerns around clergy being forced to marry same-sex couples can be easily avoided.

"The simplest way to ensure churches aren't forced to marry same-sex couples is to allow clergy to refuse to marry them," said Croome.

"The Marriage Act currently allows clergy to refuse to marry any couple who don't conform to church doctrine and that provision should simply be expanded to include same-sex couples when marriage equality is enacted."

Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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