Happy anniversary, marriage equality.
It’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since same-sex and gender diverse couples have been able to tie the knot and in that time over 5,000 LGBTIQ+ weddings have been celebrated.
For my family and me, today’s celebration of marriage equality is personal.
My wife Penny is a transgender woman. We married 32 years ago as a heterosexual couple. We created a loving home and raised two incredible children.
But 16 years ago we went from being an average couple in the eyes of the law to being an outlier and an oddity – one of the very very few same-sex married couples in the country.
By the time Penny moved to change her gender on her birth certificate, John Howard had teamed up with the Labor party and changed marriage laws to state categorically that marriage was between a man and a woman.
We faced an impossible choice: either we divorced if Penny wanted to affirm her gender on her birth certificate, or we could stay married but Penny would remain a man in the eyes of the law.
Our hand was forced. Divorce was not an option for us. We were raising a family and still very much in love.
Fast forward to December last year and marriage equality laws finally passed through the parliament.
But frustratingly, affirming Penny’s status in the eyes of the law had to wait a bit longer. Changing birth certificates comes under state laws, and the states and territories were given a year’s grace to change their laws.
A year on, marriage equality for trans Australians has now been achieved in all states and territories but Tasmania and Western Australia. And these outlier states have legislation in their parliaments at the moment.
So, after decades of campaigning for rights and recognition, after 14 years of activism following the change in definition of the Marriage Act in 2004, after the damaging and unnecessary postal survey on whether we deserve the same rights as other couples, achieving marriage equality a year ago was a massive achievement and its anniversary should be cause for celebration.
But in the last few months, LGBTIQ+ people have once again been subjected to another awful ‘debate’ about whether or not we deserve to live our lives free of discrimination, whether or not we deserve the same rights as heterosexual, cisgender people.
We’ve heard politicians, religious and community leaders, and heads of schools trying to justify why religious schools should be able to discriminate against and expel LGBTQ+ students and fire LGBTQ+ teachers just because of who they are.
We’ve again been used as political footballs by politicians of all stripes to pursue ideologically driven agendas, including from the latest Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
So on this first anniversary of marriage equality coming into force in Australia, I hope all Australians will celebrate what was an historic day for Australia.
But I also call on all Australians, especially cisgender, heterosexual Australians, to stand with and support your LGBTIQ+ family, friends and communities to make sure governments continue to remove discrimination from our laws and from our society.