When it comes to gay marriage rights I have been politically lazy, apathetic. I did try telling myself that I am generally politically lazy, but under further scrutiny this didn’t hold up. I have rallied for and against many things since I was a teenager. I have exerted myself to support the rights of women to birth at home (and will continue to) but I have shied away from fighting for equal marriage rights for myself and my partner and all the other gay couples out there.
This apathy springs both from misfortune and fortune. It was my misfortune, as a child, to grow up surrounded by a collection of horrible, unsuccessful and unappealing marriages in my own and my friends’ families. If that was marriage, I thought, you can count me out – I don’t need a piece of paper to shackle me to someone who’s likely to drink too much, beat me up, ignore me, treat my kids like crap and expect me to view their unstable behaviour as a quirk, or worse as an entitlement. Not to mention the divorces, the custody battles, the stone-in-a-pond concentric ripples that rock the lives of everyone for years afterward.
Now I am fortunate. Not just in being in a happy relationship, but in being surrounded by people who unblinkingly support us. Neither of our families nor any of our friends have derided or excluded us, suggested it’s a phase we’ll grow out of, or laughed at the notion of us having a baby. Our son, at the great age of eleven months, has not yet been judged or excluded from anything on the basis of having two mothers. And other than a few unintentionally ridiculous comments – one of my colleagues continually expressed her dismay that I would never be a wife, as my cooking and knitting skills would just be wasted – our workplaces have been as supportive of us as any other staff members. In short, I haven’t struggled against oppression or discrimination, so I’ve never been fired up enough to go and fight for something that didn’t even seem that appealing for the people that could already have it.
Then our son’s new birth certificate arrived and everything changed. When we decided to have a baby the law prevented us accessing fertility treatment in our home state of Victoria. We conceived our son in Queensland (oh, the irony) and on the day I found out I was pregnant the new ART bill was passed through parliament, changing Victorian law. Change trickles through slowly and the law was not fully enacted by the time our son was born, so the only name on his birth certificate was mine, with a great big blank space underneath. When he was about six months old we were able to apply to change the certificate to include my partner’s details as his second parent. Even filling out the paperwork was quite an emotional experience, imagining all the layers of bureaucracy that had to change and committees that had to convene for something as simple as that form to be created. When the certificate itself arrived I cried. It wasn’t the piece of paper itself, it was the equality it represented for our son – that his certificate would be just like any other kid’s – and for my partner – that her status as a parent is acknowledged just like any other parent.
So, marriage. Many people before me have asked their partner why bother marrying, have said ‘it’s only a piece of paper, we know we’re staying together forever, what do we need that for?’. It’s not about needing a piece of paper in order to believe in your own relationship, it’s about holding a piece of paper that says your government believes you’re equal to any other couple.
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To see and hear Rodney Croome’s excellent speech ‘The Case for Gay Marriage’ follow this link……