Three very different LGBTI couples open up to Jess Jones about how the marriage equality debate is affecting their lives, for better or for worse.
Eliot Hastie and Tom Miles have been together for two years. Both would love to see marriage equality become a reality for Australia, but Miles is unable to vote in the postal survey because of his citizenship.
“I certainly wonder if it would be easier if we were married,” says Hastie.
Marriage equality is important to Hastie and Miles even if they aren’t planning a wedding themselves.
“I’m still quite young, so it’s not as though we’re ready to march down the aisle,” Hastie jokes.
“It’s bigger than us. Marriage equality will show young people growing up that it’s okay to have these feelings, to be gay. It’s more the statement that it makes, for us.
“It won’t change things overnight, but it says that [being gay] is okay. It’s about that wider acceptance.”
Hastie and Miles have both lived in the UK, and seen the increase in LGBTI acceptance that came after marriage equality.
“Every friend I talk to who’s not from Australia is amazed that we don’t have it yet,” says Hastie
With the postal survey looming, Miles is frustrated as he has to watch the vote happen without participating in it.
“It’s a lot of frustration for him, compounded by the fact that he can’t do anything about it,” says Hastie.
“He can’t vote, and all his British friends here can’t vote, so there’s a lot of annoyance and frustration that they just have to watch this train wreck of a debate and they can’t participate. He wants to be involved and help, but the fact that he can’t add his voice to the actual survey, it’s not fair that he has to watch his own relationship being debated and doesn’t get a say in it.”
Hastie has found the anti-LGBTI rhetoric from the debate so far to be “really tiring”.
“Someone was talking about people wanting to get married to bridges, and that was week two of the debate,” he says. “Where do we even go from there?
“I don’t mind if someone’s voting no if they can give me a good reason why. There’s so many tired lies going around. If they don’t have a good reason they’re just hiding behind homophobia.”
Chloe Smith* is a bisexual woman in an opposite-sex relationship. She’s been with her current partner for eight years.
“I was ten or eleven when I started to realise I was attracted to people of the same sex,” says Smith.
“I remember being taught explicitly in high school health education classes that it’s normal during your teenage years with hormones raging to feel same-sex attracted, but don’t worry, it will just be a phase. That was actually quite a relief for me, to think it was normal and I’d grow out of it… and then I didn’t.”
Smith was in a number of long-term same-sex relationships before meeting her current partner. They are not married and aren’t planning to tie the knot at this stage, though as an opposite-sex couple they of course would be able to.
“I just think it’s so wrong that if we did want to get married we could, but there’s part of the population who can’t,” she says. “It’s just not right.
“My first girlfriend, who I was with for three years, got married to her wife a few years ago and it was such a beautiful ceremony. They both wore gorgeous white dresses. But there was this legal aspect of it missing, which is just so hurtful and makes people feel like they’re second-class citizens.
“How dare anyone say that my best friend and her wife don’t have the same right to get married as me and my partner? It’s just so wrong.”
Smith’s partner is straight, but he supports LGBTI rights and they have attended marriage equality rallies together. Smith sees straight allies as important to achieving equality.
“There were so many straight people [at the last rally] with signs like ‘I’m not queer but I’m here’,” she says.
“I think that reflects that it’s an issue of equality. People feel that if there’s one part of our society that’s not treated equally then that’s not okay, even if it doesn’t personally affect them.
“My partner, he’s straight and it won’t affect him if other people are allowed to marry, but he’s passionate enough to march and fight for other people’s rights.”
Melbourne couple Gwen and Megan Luscombe have been together for four years.
“Although we run a business together so it feels like 20,” they joke
The couple have been engaged for two years, so marriage equality is of personal importance to them.
“It’s something that we’re effectively just waiting around to do,” says Gwen.
“We’ve watched other friends of ours get engaged and plan their weddings, and being event planners we’ve planned weddings for friends, which is a bit frustrating because we can’t plan our own.”
Friends have suggested they get married overseas, perhaps in the US, where Gwen is originally from.
“We could do it, but effectively it’s a bit null and void doing it overseas and then coming back to a country where it’s not recognised,” Gwen says.
“If the option existed to get married there and have it recognised here we’d do it in a second.
“When we do it, we want to do it for real. I give credit to everyone who’s out there doing it anyway, but for us we want to have a ceremony that’s legal. It’s important for us to have our marriage recognised in the country we want to live in and raise our family in.”
Gwen says her family and friends in the US are “completely baffled” that Australia doesn’t yet have marriage equality. She believes LGBTI acceptance has come a long way in the US since marriage equality has become normalised.
“The marriage debate in Australia has been fucking depressing,” Megan says.
“There’s been moments of frustration. We’ve been watching the news and in tears about it. Our relationship is the strongest foundation I’ve ever had in my life, and watching this whole thing unfold is probably the most hurtful experience I’ve had in my life.”
Gwen adds, “Having people on the news and social media telling us we’re an abomination and we should be dead… I can’t imagine being in the shoes of young LGBTI people or those without a good support network.”
The pair have accepted that for now marriage is not on the cards, and have moved onto things they can do, such as planning a family.
“You can only talk about something and plan it for so long before it starts to hurt that you can’t do it,” Megan explains.
They do intend to get married soon after it’s possible.
“A lot of our friends are going to want us to get married pretty much the day after it becomes legal,” says Megan.
“The fact that we’re event managers and we plan weddings professionally… we have a lot to live up to!”
*Not her real name