The marriage equality debate has been heating up here in Australia. As someone who is not as personally affected by this debate as some others are, I thought it would be a good idea to get the perspective of someone who’s life was changed by marriage equality laws. So I asked Jess from The Legacy of Leo to write a few words about how marriage equality has changed her life and why we should legalise it here. Australians, remember to mail your ‘yes’ vote back by October 27 to make sure your vote counts!
For some reason, I’ve really struggled to write what I want to write about equal marriage. It’s a topic so close to my heart and home, yet I’m lost for words. I guess, trying to ‘defend’ or ‘explain’ something that is just a part of you and who you are, and what your family is, is a difficult thing to do.
Watching Australia become one of the latest countries to debate equality in marriage, and asking the public to cast a vote on it – a vote that doesn’t even change the law – affects us all, globally. Many people in the UK may think that the equality campaigning is done now that we have marriage, yet there is such wide variation across the world. Not just in marriage, but in all forms of LGBT rights and legalisation. And in an increasingly global community, what one country does, affects us all. Its heard, its seen, its read, it echoes into the thoughts and minds of people across the world, and all sides of the campaign.
Equal marriage came into the UK several years after Civil Partnerships. Me and my now wife, became civil partners in 2011, and converted that partnership to marriage as soon as the law allowed, in 2014. Whats the difference? For me, the difference between a Partnership and a Marriage is language. My access to things hasn’t changed, yet I now get to tick the same box on forms as all my other straight married counterparts. I get to call my wife, my wife – legally, and with right. The difference may sound small to some, not worth the political hassle of countless debates and upheaval of historical meaning, but the difference really is huge to those whom it affects. It’s more than a word. No longer does our language or description of our relationship separate us. And that’s an important thing for me.
I remember all the debates. In Parliament, on television and in the paper. The slippery slopes, and cries of the children, the needs for fathers, and the fear that people will be marrying their brothers and sisters for tax breaks, the insistence that homosexuality is linked to beastiality and paedophilia, the reminders that we create all of the world’s storms, and that children will be taught how to be gay. All of that, just because I wanted to say ‘I do’. Doesn’t that all sound a little far fetched?
From what I can see, in my almost six year marriage, the main overarching impact of being able to get married, is that I got married. Full stop. I got married. Isn’t that something that most children grow up thinking they will do one day? What most people start to visualise in their late teens, and start questioning whether they are ‘the one’ soon after, until they find the actual one? Isn’t that all quite… normal and expected? Yet, for a huge proportion of people, they are denied the fairytale told to them when they are young.. based purely on who they want to marry.
I guess my point can be better explained in an exercise of empathy. If you’d just like to imagine the scenario from the other side of the fence? If you are straight and questioning the purpose of equal marriage, just visualise your loved one, your spouse, your wife, or husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, real, current, past or imaginary. What does the future look like with you and them? Will there be a wedding? A honeymoon, marriage, gifts, the long haul of relationships, the middle aged you, the pensioner you, your retirement, your forever home, your pets, your potential children. Visualise it all. Feel it all – the rush of love, the excitement, the wedding day jitters, the perfect dress, the new home purchase, the arguments, the petty disagreements, the seven year itch, the love and the loss of a marriage. The fairytale you’d heard about as a child. Then imagine being denied it based purely on the gender of the person that you love.
Then imagine the decision of whether you can marry that person being up to every single other person in the country of which you live. People you’ve never met, and will never meet. Most likely if you are straight and you wish to marry someone, the only two people involved in that decision, are you and the person you wish to marry. Not the entire country, debating it for years, taking a poll, and then maybe, just maybe, considering changing the law.
I guess what I wish the world to know about the other side of introducing equal marriage is that by doing so, you allow people to fulfil that fairytale. That is all. That is the disastrous consequence of equal marriage – the thing really to be feared. Is that people, normal everyday people, living normal everyday lives, will be able to fulfil the fairytale childhood dream of marrying the person that they love. What’s fearful about that? This debate doesn’t need to go wider than that. A marriage doesn’t have many other consequences really on other people. But the consequences are huge for that couple, that family, those very real, very normal people. Legislation doesn’t stop people being in long term, committed relationships, having children and being gay – but legislation preventing equal rights has far wider, greater negative repercussions on society and the next generation.
“But think of the children?” is often what gets thrown around as the main reason to prevent marriage, and a lot of rights progression. My answer – Exactly! Think of the children. Legalisation changes don’t make more people gay. It just affords equality. Or at least progress towards equality. I’d absolutely want people to think of the children. The children that have to listen to the abuse that their parents are receiving, being told that the family is not equal or worthy. Or the children having to listen to the misguided debates about sexuality, just as they are starting to figure out their own.
Show the children tolerance, kindness, compassion and love. Show the children that their families are just as important and valued as any other. Show the children that they live in a progressive country that values its individuals. Show the children that they are allowed the freedom to be whoever they are. Yes, absolutely, when you debate marriage, love and sexuality – think of the children.
*Featured image courtesy of The Legacy of Leo, also special thanks for writing this guest post!