It’s time we gave Christians a break on SSM

But before you reach for your pitchforks, let me be clear, I'm not talking about those leading the No campaign or anyone actively subscribing to it.

I'm talking about those moderate Christians caught between the acrimony of the No and Yes campaigns. Those Christians that aren't even remotely part of any "campaign" who have genuinely agonised over their decision. If they vote for reform of the Marriage Act they may betray their faith. If they vote against it, they may be branded homophobes.

Even as I write this I'm conflicted. I am not a Christian. I don't believe in the bible. I prefer not to believe in God. So I suppose that makes me something of an atheist.

Also, I'm gay.

So why would I want to defend Christians? Because I know many of them well.

I was raised in a strong Christian household which meant going to church every Sunday, saying grace before dinner (holding hands no less), and attending a Christian high school.

I've always admired the compassionate, loving quality of the faith. I see it all around me in my friends and family who have supported me through the toughest of times. And in my glacially-slow coming out to them I've been accepted with love, and without judgement.

As strange as it may sound, the best kind of response has been a shrug of the shoulders and the affirmation, "I don't feel any different about you." In my book, that's about as far away as you can get from homophobia.

Still, I have found great freedom in my personal rejection of Christianity. Part of that has been liberating myself from the bible's teachings, literal or perceived, on homosexuality. It's a doctrine that has made an almost lifelong, torturous struggle with my sexuality even harder.

Perhaps that's why I'm also guilty of being, secretly in my own mind, prejudiced against Christians. Even those closest to me. I feared that narrow minds would prevail and so my secret lay dormant. The truth is, I've had to come to terms with the fact my own thinking was narrow.

I have no doubt there are many Christians who do not subscribe to the hardline views of the Australian Christian Lobby and The Coalition for Marriage, which markets itself as the "silent majority".

A Galaxy Research poll commissioned by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays found that 61 per cent of Australian Christians, including 55 percent of regular churchgoers, are unhappy with conservative groups such as these representing the views of all Christians.

And that was released in July, long before the bitterness of the campaign proper had begun.

Christians do not live a cloistered existence. Many will have considered and agonised over the impact their vote will have on LGBTQI loved ones, and in a broader sense, marriage equality for all Australians.

The SSM vote - and it is a vote - on my right to marry has felt like a vote on my worth as a human being at times. It may seem antithetical, but I have chosen not to ask where my Christian friends and family stand on the vote. A dear non-Christian friend suggested I try to separate the great love and support I already receive from them with whatever their decision may be. I'm finding a great freedom in that.

Of course, I know what I'd like them to vote, but I also know it's a profoundly personal and spiritual decision. They have respected me and I'll do the same of them.

As we reach the home stretch of the postal survey, there's likely to be Christians still grappling with their decision. That shows a compassion towards others and a consideration of their own faith. It shouldn't be a presumption of homophobia.

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