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Church Leaders Reject Idea That Marriage Equality Is Not Important

And prayer is not enough. (Warning: The following story contains references to suicide.)

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One hundred religious leaders in Australia have signed a petition calling on the federal government to allow same sex marriage.

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Government MP Warren Entsch, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Labor MP Terri Butler and Greens leader Richard Di Natale also attended *a prayer breakfast at Parliament House on Wednesday.

Archdeacon Fr Peter MacLeod-Miller, Rev Angus McLeay and Rev Dr Margaret Mayman handed the letter to the MPs co-sponsoring the cross-party marriage equality bill.

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The letter, addressed to prime minister Tony Abbott and obtained by BuzzFeed News, reads, "the views of Christians in relation to marriage under the Act are more complex and varied than those represented by prominent lobbies and leaders. As people of faith we strongly disagree that the Act should be maintained in its current form."

It also noted that recent polling found 65% of Christians in Australia support same-sex marriage.

Uniting Church Minister Dr Margaret Mayman prayed for politicians.

"We pray for political leaders, that they may be bold and visionary" #marriageequality

Anglican Reverend Angus McLeay *said* many Christians who support marriage equality felt like they were being dragged in to the wrong side of the debate.

"Many Christians that I know are frustrated by the way they've been represented by the anti marriage equality lobby"

Father MacLeod-Miller, an Anglican leader from the regional NSW city of Albury, spoke about how the issue was linked to youth suicide in his local area.

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"Ambulances drivers have approached me, telling me about how they are so tired of cutting kids down," he said, and added that they were writing letters to their local member, health minister Sussan Ley.

BuzzFeed News spoke to Father MacLeod-Miller, who told of his time living in the small NSW township of Ivanhoe, north of Wilcannia.

"I do recognise that people who are growing up in regional Australia often grow up without the support that their urban cousins have." he said.

"Growing up with a fear of condemnation from society is sometimes too great a burden to carry on with and they take measures into their own hands."

Entsch promised to lead the marriage equality movement in parliament, and said he would introduce the cross-party bill on Monday, but that it wouldn't go to a vote.

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He said that while disappointing, there were some positives to the Coalition's decision not to allow a free vote.

Even if the Coalition did allow one, "there was not enough support in there to support the legislation going through. Make no bones about that," he said.

Father MacLeod-Miller told BuzzFeed News that it was a shame that the government was treating the issue like it was not important. "It's a life and death matter. Of course it is," he said.

Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

"It's about real people, of course there are other important issues, but this is a life and death matter and I don't know how you can put a value on a young life out in the bush," he said.

The reverend said he talked to parents who told him that not having marriage equality has damaged their relationships with their same-sex attracted children.

"It ends up separating parents from their children, with the pressure of society against them, they can end up rejecting their children, or actually jumping into the closet with them."

"Marriage is meant to be an institution that maintains family values, but it's destroying family values," he said.

With the coalition government announcing that it wants the decision to be put to the people in a plebiscite, marriage campaigners are now pivoting tactics, hoping to get a national vote as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 44 or visit Lifeline.org.au.

Alexandra Lee is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Alex Lee at alexandra.lee@buzzfeed.com.

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