Church and charity group leaders were among more than 40 public figures to privately urge prime minister John Howard to push for last year’s gay marriage ban, it emerged this week.

The prime minister received 43 letters of support from prominent individuals, including leaders of the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church, before the ban passed parliament last August, the Herald Sun reported.

The Herald Sun gained access to the prime minister’s same-sex relationships -“ correspondence from VIPs and church groups file under freedom of information legislation.

The file contained only two letters of support for same-sex marriage, from the NSW Teachers Federation and the Humanist Society of Victoria.

Catholic archbishop of Sydney George Pell urged the prime minister to heed the weight of research internationally and move to ban gay marriage.

The reality is that on average, generally, people do better in families based on traditional marriage, Pell wrote.

Salvation Army commissioner Les Strong argued a same-sex marriage ban would be spot-on.

The changes required to both define marriage and ban same-sex adoption, with a process allowing superannuation to same-sex couples is spot-on, Strong wrote.

But Barry Johnson, from the NSW Teachers Federation, warned the planned Marriage Act change would fuel discrimination.

Along with your statements earlier this year on values, this is a clear message to young people that it is not good to be gay or lesbian, Johnson wrote.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor David Scamell told Sydney Star Observer the correspondence was disappointing but not a surprise.

It shows government and in particular John Howard was really influenced by conservative and Christian ideology when he moved to ban same-sex marriage last year, Scamell said.

There is a clear separation of church and state in our society.

There is no reason whatsoever the government should be influenced by groups such as the Catholic Church to ban same-sex marriage and influence social policy.

Scamell said the research cited by George Pell against gay marriage was dubious at best.

Lobby research showed many gay men and lesbians were in stable relationships, and their partnerships deserved full legal recognition, he said.

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