The arrival of Easter presents an ideal opportunity to think about the relationship between the LGBTI community and religion.

According to research following the Private Lives survey in 2008, 71 percent of LGBTI people reported having no religion, in comparison to 19 percent of the general population.

While these figures seem startling, they should come as no surprise. Traditional organised religions tend to promote rigid notions of family structures, gender roles and sexuality which leave no room for those of us who are sex, gender or sexuality diverse. Many in our community have been hurt by our experiences with formal religion, and choose to abandon it completely in response.

At the extreme end, we find people like unsuccessful NSW Christian Democrat candidate Peter Madden, and former tennis great, now pastor, Rev Margaret Court, whose homophobic tirades have drawn the ire not just of our community but of the broader Australian public as well.

Of course such views are not confined to Christianity. A recent attack on the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria anti-homophobia program by Rabbi Shimon Cowen (son of former Governor-General Zelman Cowen) is equally intolerant, and similar examples can be found in other religions as well. The issue is fundamentalism across all religions.

It is critical, however, that we recognise that within any religion there is a wide spectrum of beliefs, and many who consider themselves religious are among our greatest supporters. Indeed, a Galaxy poll commissioned by Australian Marriage

Equality in 2011 found 53 percent of people who identify as Christian support marriage equality.

In recent days two Christian ministers and the peak body for Progressive Judaism in Australia have made submissions to the federal Senate Inquiry on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 in support of marriage equality.  Moreover, support from high-profile Christians like Rev Bill Crews and Wallaby David Pocock adds weight to the case that faith need not be a barrier to support for LGBTI rights.

For many in our community, faith remains an important part of their lives. Organisations like the Metropolitan Community Church, Dayenu and Freedom2b continue to provide support for those seeking to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.

Whatever our response to organised religion, perhaps we can allow the marginalisation we have endured to sensitise us to the marginalisation of others. Perhaps we can work to overcome difference and create a community which welcomes people of all faiths as well as those who choose to have none.

Whatever we call ourselves, love, compassion and respect are universal values to which we can all aspire. Happy Easter!

By JUSTIN KOONIN, NSW GLRL

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