The Work For The YES Vote Continues
We have seen public support for marriage equality grow beyond anything we could have ever imagined
In September of this year, at the same time as Australians across the country were being sent postal surveys asking whether same-sex couples should be able to marry, we quietly marked our three-year wedding anniversary and the tenth year of our relationship. Like many same-sex couples, we were lucky enough to be able to marry under another country’s laws. We could not have imagined that we would be celebrating our marriage milestone three years later under these circumstances.
We have both volunteered with Australian Marriage Equality since 2012.We have done this as we feel very strongly that marriage equality will send a powerful message to LGBTIQ Australians that they are valued and that the love they feel is worthy. Since 2012, we have seen public support for marriage equality grow beyond anything we could have ever imagined, into the once-in-a-generation grassroots movement we see happening across the country today. We have also seen country after country usher in this positive reform. There are now more than one billion people living in countries with marriage equality.
Our official marriage happened in the British Consulate in Sydney in 2014. The staff were absolutely lovely and supportive and it was an amazing moment when we signed the paperwork. The following day, after the legal ceremony, we had another ceremony – one that was legally unrecognised – on Balmoral Beach, where many friends and family members were able to join us on a wonderful September day.
Although our marriage is not legally recognised in Australia, our wedding was a wonderful and deeply significanttime in both our lives. What really surprised us, in the best possible way, was how our family and friends came together to support us and to make sure the day was perfect for us. We had guests come from as far away as Cambodia, Japan and England as well as from interstate. There was love, merriment and so much joy over those two days. The memory of both our mums and dads walking each of us down the aisle will be something we cherish forever. Marriage is certainly about the love between two people but it is also about expressing that love and celebrating it with the people who mean the most to you.
We understand that there are now hundreds of couples who have married in British Consulates across Australia. There are also many more same-sex couples who have married overseas. New Zealand has proven to be a particularly popular destination. It is a very surreal situation when Australians can have their marriages recognised after a three-hour plane flight to New Zealand but not when they return home to their own country. We travelled to the USA after our wedding and were amazed at how easily customs staff recognised as us a married couple and how respectfully they treated our relationship. It was disheartening to come back home and be treated as unmarried once again.
It is abundantly clear that Australian same-sex couples are marrying, often at great difficulty and without loved ones who cannot travel to be with them. We know of people whose elderly grandparents have not been able to travel overseas to be with them on their special day. This is heartbreaking. Same-sex weddings are a positive for Australian society. It’s more than time that these couples had their marriages recognised in their home country. And of course, it is also well overdue that as a nation we include all loving and committed couples in our marriage laws.
As this postal survey continues, we hear many arguments from the No side that are conflated and unfair. Unrelated issues are often raised and ugly scare tactics have been depressingly common. This has been tough for the LGBTIQ community and their friends and families. We believe, though, that Australians see through these empty tactics and understand that marriage equality is simply about people, love and fairness.
We have seen some terribly sad consequences of Australia delaying marriage equality. A friend, Peter Bonsall Boone (Bon), died without being able to marry his partner of fifty years, Peter de Waal. Peter de Waal still courageously campaigns for marriage equality in an effort to make sure that other Australians do not have to go through what he and Bon went through. As we go through this campaign, we have seen many houses decorated and signs put up by everyday people showing their support. This is not just in gay-friendly suburbs but across the country. Resilience continues to shine throughout. Times like this remind us of the true spirit of our community with such a proud history of forging a path to equality despite adversity.
This campaign is a long one. There are still many more weeks ahead of us until the results of the postal survey will be announced on 15 November. So many everyday people from across this country have put enormous effort into campaigning for this reform, whether it be through door knocking, participating in phone banking or having conversations with people about why marriage equality matters.
As the campaign continues, we would like to ask people to make sure that they are looking after themselves. There has been a human cost to this postal survey and it is very important that people take the time to look after their own needs and to check in with friends and family. Make sure you take the time to focus on personal relationships – and after all, that is what we are all working so hard to recognise.
The work for the YES vote continues and there will be many more opportunities to contribute to these efforts in weeks ahead. Take every chance to remind your friends, families and workmates to post their YES vote! We especially need to reach out to those intending to vote yes but who have not yet got around to posting their ballot – reminding them of the urgency and that this is their chance to be part of a historic and profound moment for equality in this country.For now, we would like to thank everyone for their amazing efforts thus far, and the positivity maintained in this most personal of debates.