Michelle is completing a Masters of Advanced Journalism at UTS. Areas of interest include religion, spirituality and cultural diversity.
A range of religious communities are voicing their support for marriage equality in response to the Federal Government's upcoming postal survey.
Some members of the Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox Jewish communities say their faiths have strong traditions of “social justice” that compel them to speak out.
Fahad Ali founded Muslims for Marriage Equality earlier this month to back the Yes campaign, a decision he says is grounded in his faith.
“..the Koran I don’t think says anything about homosexuality, it doesn’t even broach the topic. But it does lay out a framework for treating people equally, to act with kindness and justice and mercy.”
Mr Ali said people need to look beyond the stereotypes of Muslims being “anti-gay”.
“It’s probably true to say that there is an issue of homophobia within the Muslim community that is a lot more significant than the rest of the population," he said.
But it’s not accurate to say that all Muslims have one particular thought about it or another. We’re a very, very diverse group… When people make those assumptions… it is really damaging because then what happens is it paints Muslims as being outside and incompatible with a pluralist society like our own. But that simply just isn’t the case.”
Dr Gávi Ansara runs Rosh Pinah, an organisation that supports members of the Orthodox Jewish faith with same-gender partners or are trans, intersex, or non-binary individuals.
He said said the lack of civil marriage equality in Australia disproportionately impacts Orthodox Jewish same gender couples because their relationships also aren’t recognised by their religious community.
This leaves individuals who are already part of a “marginalised religious community” feeling further excluded from society.
In his work as a psychotherapist, Dr Ansara sees the “very real impact” this has on people’s mental health.
“I get contacted by people who are struggling, who feel marginalised, who are being pushed out of spiritual communities by the lack of recognition they have. So it’s this deadly combination and I’ve seen quite a few people who become disenfranchised and withdraw from the religious community, withdraw from the wider civil society.”
He said marriage recognised through a civil ceremony shouldn’t be up for debate.
“I don’t think that a lot of people in the Orthodox community have fully grasped the difference between a civil marriage which is basically a secular rite and the idea of having a religious ceremony," Dr Ansara said.
"Especially if you’re going to say that there should not be a religious ceremony recognising same gender relationships, you need to offer something to people. Otherwise you’re putting them, their children, their entire families in a position of being second class citizens.”
“I think it’s very important this year also to think about us Jews who have had our freedoms abridged so many times in our history, what it means for us to be in a position of promoting policies that limit and restrict other people’s freedoms or people even within our own community,” he said.
Dr Ansara, who married his husband overseas, hopes his marriage will be recognised legally in Australia and the Orthodox community will acknowledge his wedding anniversary.
Benjamin Oh from Australian Catholics for Equality said the assumption that religion and LGBTIQ rights were incompatible erases the experiences of queer Catholics.
“Literally, when they talk about LGBTI people, it’s often this religion versus (the community) as if LGBTI people don’t come from all families, or they are not our church choirmaster or… our priests and nuns.”
Mr Oh said the Catholic voices that opposed marriage equality were the loudest, so “the majority of very sensible Catholic voices” go unheard.
“Australian Catholics, we are all very aware that this is about civil marriage. The issue here is not sacramental marriage because once you go down that pathway… do we start banning divorce? It goes down a really, really theocratic pathway. We do not live by Catholic canon law in this country,” he said.
“For people who believe in fairness, who believe in love, just vote yes to show the community that we are not as bigoted as those minority voices sound. And for people who are unsure about the plebiscite, to ask them to have conversations, respectful, loving conversations with LGBTI people because often this debate is about them, without them,” Mr Oh said.
The postal vote will be sent out from September 12 and respondents will have several weeks to return the form to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in a pre-paid envelope, with the final cut-off being 6pm on November 7.