By Tessa Berenson
June 11, 2015

An Australian couple has vowed to divorce “as a matter of conscience” if the country legalizes same-sex marriage.

In an op-ed in the Canberra City News, Nick Jensen wrote that he and his wife Sarah “refuse to recognize the government’s regulation of marriage if its definition includes the solemnization of same sex couples.”

He said that he and his wife would not split up, and would continue to live together and refer to each other as husband and wife. But, he explains, “by changing the definition of marriage, ‘marriage’ will, in years to come, have an altogether different sense and purpose. It will not be about the mystery of difference in sexual unity, as children come from gendered dissimilarity. It will not be about building and securing communities into the future… If this is no longer the case, then we no longer wish to be associated with this new definition.”

The piece incited angry backlash on social media after its publication Wednesday, directed at both the couple and the publication that printed their op-ed. The magazine’s editor, Ian Meikle, defended publishing the story to news.com.au, clarifying that “the article does not reflect the opinion of the paper” but that he “decided it was a serious enough argument to genuinely warrant some attention.”

The Australian Parliament is scheduled to vote on a marriage equality bill introduced by the opposition Labor Party by the end of the year. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not in favor of the bill.

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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