What it feels like when a family member tells you they’re voting no.

It’s been four days since I sent this text message to a family member.

“Dear [ ]. I hope you are well. I’m writing to you for a personal reason today. Over the next few days, you will receive a paper in the mail where you’ll be asked to vote on whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Australia. Nick and I have been engaged for four years and together for 10. It would mean so much to us if you and [family member] could vote “yes” so that we can be legally viewed the same way as everyone else. We need 5 million Australians to vote “yes” to win. I hope you can join us in our fight. Thank you. Adam”

Marriage equality
The text. Image: Supplied.

This relative has been there since I was in nappies. It wasn't that long ago when my partner and I were in their home having a nice family get-together.

I could have called. I didn't. I thought this particular relative might respond better to a text message, and it might seem less like an ambush. The last thing I want is that person to feel that I'd zoned in on them.

The problem is, my tactic didn't work. Or at least, it didn't work as I hoped it would.

Four days after I'd sent my message, I received a response. The relative said that "[I] appreciate you giving us your thoughts and thank you for keeping in touch". And something else about being "busy". Hmm.

Adam Bub
Whether I choose to marry or not, it's a choice I would like to have. Image: Supplied.

That's not a "yes" vote. I couldn't help but feel deflated. I sat down on the couch and read the text again, feeling foolish for even trying - and deeply hurt.

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Suddenly, it seemed like my relationship with this family member was built on a lie. After all these years, I'd just been brushed under the carpet. And while I acknowledge this family member has religious persuasions, I know many people of similar beliefs in my own family and friendship circle who find the "yes" vote to marriage equality a no-brainer.

I responded saying I was glad to hear they are well. And added: "We are pretty upset at the moment by the hurtful discussions about marriage equality in the media right now. Nick and I would love your private support." No response. No chance to have a respectful discussion (or "respectful debate" as we keep on being told we've been given the "opportunity" to have).

Unfortunately, my situation is not unique. My partner's mum had to unfollow her sister from Facebook because of the anti-gay rhetoric she's posting.

A close friend told me he's convinced his brother is a "no" voter because of his religious upbringing.

Another friend's adult nephew at first told him he was undecided. My friend said he was happy to answer any questions his nephew had. A week or so later, the nephew messaged him to advise him he was voting "no". No questions asked.

And of course, Tony Abbott's explicit campaigning against his sister Christine Forster's right to marry has shown us that some people pick and choose what family values they'd like to uphold. Tony's own daughter Frances has also expressed her support for marriage equality.

That brings me to my point: A family is a unit that should be built on the foundations of love. To reject a family member, a person is not living the "family values" they speak of.

We hear a lot from the "no" campaign about "family values" and "protecting" children. The Coalition For Marriage has tried to scare parents with falsehoods about boys wearing dresses or "radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education" in schools - none of which has anything to do with the current vote on the Marriage Act. The Australian Christian Lobby claims that "every child deserves a mum and dad", with its managing director Lyle Shelton calling children of LGBTI parents the "stolen generation" in Australia.

If anyone is actively tearing apart the institution of the family, it is these very people who seek to dictate what the composition of a family is, and how it should look. Not how it should feel.

By hijacking terms like "family", groups like the Coalition For Marriage are pitting the idea of traditional marriage "for" families and suggesting LGBTI families are somehow "against" what a family is about.

When a gay person comes out, they do not choose to stop loving their family. In fact, when we come out we are deeply looking for the love and approval of the people who raised us. Since we cannot choose our sexualities, we are forced to navigate a harder road in a society that's constantly telling us there's a "normal" way to live and we are not included in that normality.

You have to be brave to live an LGBTI life, even in modern times when acceptance is generally higher (although, as any gay person will tell you, that is never a given in any workplace or social setting).

When we live our gay lives, we do not slam the "exit" door on our families – unless they choose to hit the "exit" door on us.

Out of all my gay friends, I don't know anyone who isn't family-oriented. "Family oriented" can mean many things. It can mean wanting kids or not wanting kids. It can mean loving your parents, it can mean desperately wanting your parents to love you. It can mean being there for a sister, brother or relative in a time of need. And it can sometimes mean choosing the people who will be your "family" to fill the void left by a family who does not accept you for who you are.

Luckily that has not been my experience in my immediate family. It wasn't always easy. It was damn difficult realising I wasn't going to walk the expected road of being a "nice Jewish boy" who marries a "nice Jewish girl".

As I came to accept who I was, who I am, and learned to love that, I knew the biggest challenge would be how I could live the life I wanted while also keeping my family members close. And they still are.

On Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, my sister received her Marriage Equality postal survey. She gave it a big "YES" – as did both my parents a few days earlier – and posted it the next day.

To me, this is the meaning of family.

Adam Bub is the Commercial Editor of Mamamia, and a passionate advocate for equality. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Want to help the Yes campaign with door knocking, phone calls or a donation? Go to yes.org.au to play your part.

Still haven't voted? Or haven't received your survey? You can request a replacement survey or vote online if you are overseas. For details, visit marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au.

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