Love is Love; what Marriage equality means
A personal story
By Tim Hunter
Late last year, it became legal for people of the same sex to marry each other. Put like that, it seems pretty simple, but it wasn’t. The Australian government decided to conduct a postal survey to see if Australians wanted to legalise same-sex marriage, and along with that came lots of campaigning and debate, not all of it respectful, from both Yes and No supporters.
The result, announced on 15 November 2017, was 61.6% in favour, and a few weeks later, on 7 December, the government passed the marriage Equality Bill with most members of parliament voting Yes.
It’s a significant milestone in Australian history, and a personal one for many Australians, myself included, because we can now marry the person we love without fear or discrimination. That’s something the LGBTIQ people have been waiting and fighting for. Just to know that as a gay couple, our marriage will be recognised, and legal in Australia, in the same way heterosexual marriage is, amongst other things, a huge relief. We’re equal now – finally.
Of course, my partner Kieran and I have been treated with equality and respect as a gay couple for over 19 years by friends and family. However legally, we’ve never been recognised as next-of-kin. Which hasn’t proved a problem, so far, but it’s great to know that once we are legally married, we won’t have to worry about it. Yes, we can already do all the romance and trappings of a wedding, the cake, the ceremony, the gift registry, the suits, the guest list, but the legal recognition is something that’s often taken for granted.
We’ve always had to make our own rules and define how and what a relationship was to us because we were denied any semblance of equality by both the church and state. Now that we have that, the sky is the limit when it comes to how we celebrate our marriages! We won’t be defined by institutions and the church’s idea of what a wedding should be; the only limit to how we celebrate our legal equal marriage is our imaginations.
So yes, we are planning to get married in August 2018. It will celebrate 20 years of us being together. A milestone worth celebrating in any relationship.
This won’t be our first time at the rodeo, however just the first time legally. In August 1998, Kieran and I met in a very early version of an online chat room. Subsequently we met for a coffee and soon after realised we weren’t just in love, but were prepared to share our lives together. Fifteen months later, we had a commitment ceremony in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens. As it was a commitment ceremony and not a traditional wedding, we put it together ourselves, including the order of service and vows with a civil celebrant. We wore coordinating shirts and ties, ‘walked down the aisle’ together with oriental lilies and even had a gift registry at David Jones although they mistakenly titled Kieran Ms, it was 1999 after all, early days for same-sex commitment ceremonies. We invited 80 of our closest family and friends, and it was moving for all of us. There were many tears of joy, and it was followed by a big and boisterous reception at a friend’s cafe afterwards.
We chose to have a commitment ceremony because we had no other option at the time, and marriage equality was still a long way off. John Howard hadn’t even amended the Marriage Act to say that marriage was between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others yet; that happened in 2004.
Anyway, for us, our friends and family, we were essentially a married couple in every way except the way that mattered. We even referred to each other as husbands. In 2009, we had a 10-year anniversary celebration, and then in 2012, Australian comedian Adam Hills, who hosted an ABC TV live show, Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight, put out a call for same-sex couples to be involved in what he called an illegal mass same-sex wedding. Naturally we jumped on board with a dozen or more same-sex couples, including Equal Love organisers and activists Antony McManus and Ron Van Houwelingen.
It was a lot of fun, and while it was all done in the spirit of good humour, it was, essentially, Adam Hills taking a swing at the government’s inaction in the marriage equality debate.
Our desire to get married was still strong in 2014, when Kieran and I travelled to New York, and Kieran, very romantically, suggested we get married there. I, quite unromantically and pragmatically and foolishly suggested we wait until it meant something here in Australia. Had we gone ahead with a New York wedding, it would now, under the new law, be legally recognised.
Now it’s 2018 and we’re planning to marry in late August. Yes, the planning has started. We will, of course, be using gay and gay-supporting businesses and professionals. We’re working out the scale of the event, looking at venues, and getting a good friend who’s studying to be a celebrant to conduct the wedding. We have a DJ already lined up and we’re looking at wedding singers, caterers, and most importantly, what we’re going to wear. This is going to open up the wedding industry in so many ways.
Our plans are still developing, but one thing we’re sure of it will be a true and fabulous wedding!