So, it’s Election Day, and most of us will be visiting the polling booths today and numbering a box, or boxes, deciding the fate of this fine country. I want to ask you, for just a moment, to put aside some of the issues surrounding this election. Put aside our thriving economy, the fate of penalty rates, education policy, the two interesting men striving to lead us and take a moment to think about a very real human rights issue facing a number of Australians who are currently denied a basic human right under Australian law.
I am one of the lucky majority who had no barriers to face when I wanted to marry the love of my life, purely through the happy accident of being the opposite gender to my partner. Yet, in Australia, it would seem that not all relationships are treated equally, as it is still illegal for homosexual couples to marry. Internationally speaking, we are well behind the eight ball. The Netherlands legalised same sex marriage in 2001. That’s 12 years ago. In that time, same sex marriage has been granted by Belgium in 2003, Spain in 2005, Canada in 2005, South Africa in 2006, Norway in 2009, Sweden also in 2009, Portugal in 2010 along with Iceland and Argentina also in 2010, Denmark in 2012 and Brazil, France, Uruguay this year in 2013. Mexico recognises same sex marriages in all 31 states though it is only performed in 2. Nepal has judicially mandated but not yet legislated marriage equality. In the USA, 13 states and one district permit same sex marriage. There are other places where this legislation is underway.
Gay couples are people too. By denying the right to marriage, we treat their relationships as somehow less than relationships between heterosexual couples. Although we have laws pertaining to de-facto relationship rights in Australia, it is not the same as legally recognised marriage. One example is access to family law courts- to gain such access; a couple must have been cohabiting for 2 years to have their relationship recognised. Things like changing names on legal documents such as passports become arduous and expensive without a marriage certificate to “prove” your relationship.
Some people don’t see marriage equality as a big issue, and I guess that is easily done when it’s not your rights being quashed. I might not be in that position but I have a family member who is. She is in a long term, happy relationship with her partner. Their story is just like that of any other couple. They met through a mutual friend at a BBQ and got talking, discovered they had known each other as children through family friendships and have been committed to each other since 2008. They were kind enough to talk to me about how it feels to not be able to marry. I hope that by having the words and faces of two young people whose human right to marry is being denied them, it may make this less of an academic issue for some. I hope you can keep this in mind when it’s time to cast your vote.
Naomi and Alicia
Naomi, on how it feels to be denied equal marriage rights: The fact that this country still does not have equal rights for all is sickening. We are seen as such an accepting country to anyone that comes here, yet two people of the same sex who love each other still get weird looks in public, can’t hold hands just because other people might feel uncomfortable and get rocks thrown at them (Yes, this happened to us one night), bashed, verbally abused and much more. To think that this happens to two people who love each other in this country makes me sick to my stomach. Marriage equality is not just about letting same sex couples marry. It’s about this country accepting gay people for who they are and who they love.
Alicia’s feelings on not being allowed to marry: It confuses the hell out of me! I get so angry with these people that look down on us because of who we love. I hate that these people think they have the right to say anything they want to bring us down! And they think they have the right to say, no your love isn’t proper and you cant get married!( if I want to sign MY life away to one person, I will! It is MY choice- no one else’s) I hate that I’m scared to hold Nay’s hand because last time I did we had rocks thrown at us and were verbally abused! And the looks… Oh my gosh! I’m Aboriginal and a lesbian and that is so wrong to some people. I just don’t understand how it’s so wrong for two people of the same sex to love each other? And I hate the fact that people hide behind the bible or the whole “Oh God, think about the children!” line. I’m sure we would look after our children better than some heterosexual people! I do have a feeling we will be able to marry one day considering everyone was going on about interracial relationships years ago and now, well, they just look ridiculous. I love that Nay and I are gay AND we are in an interracial relationship- People can hate us all they want; they are the ones that will look silly in the future because it will happen-we will be treated equally.
On how important marriage equality is, Naomi says: Same sex marriage is extremely important to me. One day in the near future I would love to marry my girlfriend. We have been together for almost five years and I want to make a formal commitment to her just like any straight couple could. I have had many people ask why we don’t get married in NZ, well, that would be great, except when I get back to Australia, my home, my marriage won’t be recognised so there is just no point. I’m not about to run off to another country to get married, I would rather stay here and fight for our rights.
Alicia adds: Marriage never really was important to me in the past, I guess because all around me the marriages I saw growing up simply broke down. Since being with Nay and having her as my first ever serious relationship I do feel different about it. I would love to marry her! I think about that day all the time, what we would be wearing, what cake, where it would be. And I refuse to go overseas to get married. Australia is my home. Its where I belong and having our family around us to celebrate our marriage and our future would mean the world to me. It will be amazing when we are all treated equally and seen as just a “normal” couple.
A message to those opposed to marriage equality from Alicia: There are a million of things I would love to say to people who oppose same sex marriage but I feel almost like it would be waste of my time. They seem to be stuck in their own little bubble. All I know is that when we have kids they will be loved, they will be taught how to love everyone and we will never take them for granted! Right this moment I have all these thoughts in my head and I wish you could just pull them out with a wand like they do in Harry Potter- it’s just so hard to put it into words! Maybe these people just need to be showered in magical sparkly rainbow glitter!
Naomi says: I did not choose to be gay, just like no one chooses to be heterosexual. It is a part of life; we should be way past the point of judging who someone loves. And who are you to judge my love?Marriage equality is being spoken about in reference to children quite often when in reality, who is to say every same sex couple wants kids? This is not even about the children; this is simply about same sex couples having the right to marry the love of their lives. Having children should not even be a part of this issue. People are using it as an excuse to discriminate against us- “Oh, but their kids will be bullied” If its the bullying of children that people are worried about, I’m sure my kids would not be bullied by kids with gay parents, it would be the kids with homophobic parents… If they taught their kids about love to start with then it wouldn’t be an issue.
Love is love and everyone should have the right to love, no matter their sex.