In these uncertain times many parents of Australian service personnel will be feeling anxious about the possibility of their child going to war.

But for parents of LGBTI service personnel the anxiety is greater knowing their child doesn’t have the same rights as others.

It is deeply unfair to expect LGBTI service personnel to sacrifice themselves for Australia but for Australia to deny them a right as fundamental as the right to marry.

Today, we regret that this is how we treated Indigenous soldiers during World War II.

Upon their return they weren’t able to marry the partner of their choice, could have their children stolen by authorities, were even denied war pensions and often lived in poverty.

Let’s not look back and regret how we treat LGBTI service personnel today.

As well as the symbolism of fighting the freedoms and rights you are denied, there are real day-to-day practical benefits LGBTI service personnel miss out on because they can’t marry.

The Australian Defence Force now recognises the spousal entitlements of same-sex partners.

But partners can only access these entitlements if they are married or can provide evidence of a long-term, financially-interdependent, cohabiting relationship beyond the level of evidence required to prove a civilian de facto relationship.

This can really hard to do if you are frequently deployed across the country or the world.

The problem has been highlighted by evidence given to Parliamentary inquiries, like these words from RAAF Squadron Leader, Vincent Chong, who has served in several deployments including in the Middle East:

“When I received a short-notice posting to the USA, my partner and I had been in a committed relationship for around three years, but were not recognised by Defence. Had we been permitted to marry, we would have done so to ensure that Defence looked after my partner during the overseas posting.

“When you are being deployed, worrying about whether your partner will be recognised and looked after by Defence is a distraction that you do not want to be dealing with, particularly when you are about to enter a life-or-death situation. History shows us that marriage registries tend to do a booming trade during wartime.

“The story of Australia’s involvement in war cannot be told without telling the tales of soldiers marrying their sweethearts before leaving for the front line. Unfortunately, I cannot tell the same story. A marriage certificate is very simple, well understood and internationally recognised.”

Our sons and daughters in the Defence Force deserve equal rights.

They deserve to know their partners will be equally recognised and supported by the Government.

They deserve to know Australia has their back so they can focus on doing their job to the best of their ability.

The Prime Minister must allow a free vote on marriage equality so the reform can pass and all Australian service personnel have equal rights.

Let’s remind our law-makers that politics shouldn’t get in the way of doing what’s right by our men and women in uniform.

The last thing anyone wants is for a war to break out.

But if it does our sons and daughters must leave our shores knowing they are full and equal citizens of the nation they are defending.

Tell Malcolm Turnbull you want marriage equality here: www.givemalcolmabackbone.com.au

Shelley Argent OAM is the national spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

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