“Hopefully sharing our story and highlighting what we’ve done inspires other people to also think more broadly about ways that they can support nonprofits. So the ways that they can, you know, through their actions helped to come to create a brighter future for everyone.”

Stephen Heasley and, partner at the time, Andrew Borg were excitedly getting ready for their wedding.  

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After creating and designing their own wedding programs with global online printing company Vistaprint, the couple was shocked to find they had received homophobic conversion therapy pamphlets instead of their wedding programs. 

According to Heasley, the wedding programs were “a bit of a love letter from us to our guests.”

Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg Wedding

The front of the program listed themselves, the best men (they each had a best man), family members, and the list of speakers. 

On the back of the program were lyrics to the song they would walk down the aisle to; Treasure by their favourite group Above & Beyond. 

‘The Easiest Way to Describe It; It Felt Like Somebody Had Stabbed You in the Heart’

“It was probably 1am the morning of our wedding. We opened the programs because we were just so excited to look at them. 

“I remember I was driving at the time we pulled out of my mom’s driveway and I remember Andrew was just really quiet when he opened the box. 

“I thought that’s odd, you know, I thought [he’d] be excited and I looked over and very quickly saw that whatever he was reading did not look like our wedding programs. 

“The easiest way to describe it as it felt like somebody had stabbed you in the heart. It was pretty intense and I immediately just put the car back into the driveway, got out of the car and went down into my backyard, the backyard I grew up in, and just started to cry.” 

He continued, “It was just so shocking and so hurtful.” 

The couple donated the money they received from the ensuing lawsuit payout to LGBTQI charities in the United States and in Australia. 

$50 thousand went to Lambda Legal and GLSEN in the United States and $50 thousand ($64 thousand AUD) went to the Rise: The Bondi Memorial at Marks Park.

A public launch was held on June 4, 2022, for the Bondi memorial dedicated to victims and survivors of the spate of homophobic and transphobic violence that occurred from the 1970s to 1990s in Sydney and New South Wales.

‘At Night I’d Go There to Sort of Soul Search and Just Listen to the Ocean’

Heasley’s connection to Marks Park started in 2014 when he moved to Sydney and lived in Tamarama.

“Every day I would jog or walk past Marks Park at exactly where the memorial is. 

“At night I’d go there to sort of soul search and just listen to the ocean, to reflect, to kind of figure out life.”

“I’d never heard of any of these stories or anything that had happened there.

“It’s quite meaningful to have been able to, many years later, sort of return to that spot with a little more life experience under my belt, but knowing those stories and I think that’s why I always had an even more special connection to that spot.”

Heasley’s Relationship with Australia Started When He was 12 Years Old

Growing up in the small town of Butler, Pennsylvania, Heasley’s relationship with Australia started when he was 12 years old.

His grandmother, through her sales job was able to save for trips and holidays.

“One Christmas, she had all of the grandchildren write down on a piece of paper where we would go if we could go anywhere in the world,” Heasley recalled. 

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So she said ‘alright, sometime over the next six summers, you’re gonna get to go to the place that you wrote down on your piece of paper.’ It’s probably one of the most life-altering things that anybody’s ever done for me…That was her way of showing us as young kids, that there’s a massive world out there for us to explore.”

“It was a really impactful experience. So that was my first time coming to Australia.”

Looking forward, Heasley stresses there is still much more work to be done. 

“We have come a long way in a lot of different aspects of our struggle for equality. So I think that we can, as a community, or as individuals, or organizations become a bit complacent, and sort of just tick the box. ‘Our work is done here’. And I think that’s part of our story, is to remind ourselves that, hopefully, maybe there will be a day when our work is done, but in the meantime, you know, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

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