A YEAR SINCE YES, by Rachel Cannon / by Newcastle Discovered

A YEAR SINCE YES

Let’s talk about marriage equality. I could never comprehend why there were people arguing against the union of two people who love each other. That is all it comes down to, in the end – two people, who happen to be the same gender, who love each other, and want to commit together for life. In 1989, Denmark became the first country to legalise any type of same-sex union. However, there are many legal differences separating unions and marriage, which is what LGBTQIAPD advocates and allies have been aiming for, for so many years. Four key differences that I had noted during the campaign in 2017 include the fact that the pension rights are lesser, meaning that if a civil partner dies, the pension share that a surviving partner would receive is often substantially lower and lasts for less time than with legally married couples. Secondly, the culture surrounding marriage is vastly different than that around civil unions. Many advocates talk about the emotional resonance that marriage holds, and civil unions are less socially accepted than marriage. Some heterosexual married couples do not see civil unions as even part of the same category as marriage, because they know it is different. Sometimes, it’s part of a religious belief, and other times, it’s just a prejudice against or dislike of the LGBTQIAPD community.

         When travel is added into the equation, marriage equality seems even more important. If a married same-sex couple travels to a country where same-sex marriage has not been legalised, whether on holiday or for residency, their marriage isn’t recognised in the eyes of the country that they have travelled to. In 2016, a married couple from the UK were on their honeymoon in Australia when one of them tragically died. The surviving partner wasn’t allowed to make any decisions about his husband’s funeral without a family member of the deceased, because he himself was not legally family, at least not according to Australian law. Also, his marriage was not recognised on his death certificate, because their marriage wasn’t recognised in the country where he died, even though they were not citizens of that country, and had been married elsewhere, in a country where their relationship was legal.

         On many official forms, there is a separate box for ‘marriage’ and ‘civil union’, meaning that people in same-sex unions have to disclose their sexuality, which can often be dangerous, as violent homophobia is still rife, which can partly be attributed to the fact that the law did not recognise the relationships as equal. If a government doesn’t view the relationship as equal to heterosexual counterparts, then how can we expect anyone else to do the same?

In 2017, I was involved in four marriage equality rallies, in June, August, September, and October, while the debate about whether to make same-sex marriage legal tore apart families and brought others together. People argued over love, and how two people who loved each other would affect children and future generations. In some ways, it would affect the years to come. But I wholeheartedly believe that equality will only result in positive change for the future.

Marriage equality passed through the government on December 7th, 2017, after much debate and scrutiny of the LGBTQIAPD community, who had to fight, both politically and physically, for their basic human rights. Why is it anyone else’s business who someone loves? As long as the relationship is not toxic, it shouldn’t matter to anyone who is in a relationship with whom, no matter if they are family, friends, and especially strangers.

When the four letters came to my house that asked my family to tick a box to help decide whether same-sex couples should have their unions recognised as equally as heterosexual couples, my father was insistent on making his vote in front of me. He wanted to do our votes together. I thought it was weird at the time. Now, I think it was a form of solidarity. He was letting me know that he was accepting it. I think he mentioned that it should not be up to the public whether other people’s relationships should be viewed as the same in the eyes of the law. They just should be.

When it was announced that marriage equality was legalised, I was hungover, and sitting on the lounge next to my father, who was reading some non-fiction book, as he often did. I mentioned to him that the law had been passed, which I saw while scrolling through Instagram, and he was extremely happy for me. He knew it was something I was passionate about. He gave me a high five, and he smiled. That means so much more to me now than it did at the time.

Although it does make me extremely happy that every Australian can now get legally married to the person they love, I know that this is not the reality for every country. And even through this legalisation, homophobia is still an issue in Australia. Cisgender heterosexual individuals are still wondering why the LGBTQIAPD community would need pride rallies. And the answer is simple – we are still targets of hatred, which became evident during the same-sex marriage debate. The government essentially opened fire on and called into question the legitimacy of LGBTQIAPD individuals and their personal relationships. And then, by making it a non-compulsory plebiscite, they ruled out the opportunity to get a clear view on whether the majority of the country sided with these people or not. I was at work one day when a customer randomly asked me whether or not I had voted ‘yes’ in the plebiscite. When I said I had, he told me he hadn’t, and proceeded to belittle LGBTQIAPD individuals in front of me. Another day, a man walked in with a ‘Vote No for the Sanctity of Marriage’ shirt. How was he to know that at least 5 people who worked there were LGBTQIAPD? He should have been respectful anyway. They all should have been.