At the recent forum of election candidates, Newcastle Herald journalist Jason Gordon raised the question of marriage equality in a future conscience vote.

Both ALP candidates, Sharon Claydon (Newcastle) and Jill Hall (Shortland) proffered support, while the Liberal candidate for Newcastle, Jaime Abbott, obfuscated.

The Liberal candidate for Shortland, John Church, stated that he had “pondered and struggled” but that ultimately, his decision to uphold the present arrangement limiting marriage to a man and a woman was “informed by my Christian faith”.

I would like to say to Mr Church, and those Christians whose philosophy aligns with his, that there is nothing about being a Christian that would preclude him from supporting marriage equality.

Like millions of others around the world, I am a Christian, valuing the Jesus message and attempting to live my life according to his example.

And I am also a gay man, and published my book Being Gay Being Christian last year.

Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby wrote the foreword, and this paper and its sister paper in Sydney wrote some very positive words upon its reception. As a specialist counselling psychologist, a gay person and a Christian of long standing, I felt I was in a unique position to explore in the book the latest science informing our understanding and to look at some of the theology and biblical studies around the topic of gay sexuality.

For it is gay sexuality itself that Christian people who do not support marriage equality find the greatest hurdle.

It need not be. Many stumble over the words of the Bible, but it does not refer to sexual orientation as we understand it today, through the lens of science, particularly biology, genetics and psychology.

The word homosexuality itself was not even invented until the late nineteenth century and is misused in Bible translations. There is ample and good scholarship now to show that the six verses, out of 38,000 Bible verses, that purport to speak about gay sexuality do not in fact do so.

Rather, they speak about cruel and exploitative sex and sexual activity that was used in religious or liturgical pagan worship and always linked to idolatry.

This does not describe modern gay people. Gay people no more reject God due to sexual orientation any more than straight people do due to theirs.

On the contrary, gay people of faith are now owning and acknowledging their faith as Christians the world over.

We also know that the Catholic teaching, which relies heavily on “natural law philosophy,” misses the boat about gay people as well, as our understanding has moved on from when those original documents were written.

Contrary to being “against nature”, gay people have been around since the beginning of recorded history and have been identified in every culture without exception across the planet.

We understand now that people are born gay and we have identified at least some of the genetic influence that is causative.

We also know that same-sex pair bonding has been identified in nature in over 1500 other species.

If God is creator, and Christians believe this is so, gay people are very much part of the overflowing cornucopia that is the diversity of creation.

In terms of Christians themselves, we now actually have a majority supporting marriage equality as evidenced by Galaxy Research in 2011, where 53 per cent endorsed support. It is more than likely higher now, as increasing support is the overall trend in the population.

There is support from clergy and church-people in every major denomination in the country.

Dr Peter Catt, President of A Progressive Christian Voice Australia and Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral Brisbane has said: “Opening marriage to allow committed same-sex couples to express their commitment is an important way of increasing social cohesion. To have one’s relationship legitimised by the society in which one lives is both encouraging and life-giving.”

He also said: “It is time to over-turn the stereotype that Christians are socially and politically conservative. Many are far more interested in encouraging human flourishing than being moral police”.

And just recently, well-known Catholic professor of law Jesuit Father Frank Brennan said: “I now accept that we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage”, his words giving welcome support to the notion that same-sex couples should not be offered a second-tier status.

He went on to say: “It is high time to draw a distinction between a marriage recognised by civil law and a sacramental marriage”, endorsing the idea that same-sex couples should be able to marry in civil ceremonies offered by the state, just like the approximately 70 per cent of Australians who already opt for this kind of formal ceremony.

The Christian Gospel is supposed to be good news to all and its fundamental tenets for how we treat each other are grounded in love, forgiveness, compassion and justice for all.

If John Church believes in a society where everyone is treated equally and he believes in Gospel values, he need have nothing to fear from the church or from Christian people or from God should he support marriage equality.

Dr Stuart Edser is a counselling psychologist in Newcastle and author of Being Gay Being Christian.

Author: Stuart Edser
Publication: Newcastle Herald
Date: July 24 2013