According to Dameyon Bonson, the only people politicising equal marriage are politicians. Just do it already.

IT’S NAIDOC week back home and I am driving across Canada to Montreal to facilitate the first-ever international workshop to identify the social determinants of health affecting Indigenous LGBTI people at the 28th International Association for Suicide Prevention World Congress Conference.

My first stop was Vancouver, British Columbia. I was married there five years ago at Kitsilano Point. My husband is Canadian, and recently became an Australian citizen. He is meeting me at his folks’ house in Alberta, Canada, in two weeks time. We will be returning to Vancouver to celebrate our five-year anniversary.

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I was walking down Granville St in search of some sushi for supper (Canadian for dinner) and I was overcome with a sense of joy — tinged by sadness. The joy I was experiencing were the memories of our wedding and honeymoon in Vancouver and also of holding hands walking down the street with my arm draped over his shoulder, or staring into his eyes over the delicious Greek food at Stepho’s Souvlaki Greek Taverna on Davie. Suddenly I was overcome with how I miss that, because we don’t do it at home in Australia. It made me stop and think why.

Fear was the reason.

Fear of encountering some form of aggression. Whether it’s a whisper here or a whisper there, a joke or the most extreme — some kind of physical violence. I had to reflect on why being in Canada changed that. Why I was comfortable to do those things, such as show affection, in a country that was not my own.

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world legalise same-sex marriage. By the time I had married here, it was nearly four years to the day that Canada had experienced a significant cultural shift on a national scale. People of the same sex getting married was no big deal. At the grocery store, at Starbucks, even on the plane the term “partner” was used instead of girlfriend or wife, when people enquired. There was no assumption that either or of us were heterosexual and thus our partners were women. Gay people getting married has became part of this world’s, Canada’s, lexicon. Equal relationships have become part of the societal fabric of Canada.

Back home in Australia, politicians are politicising equal marriage, because they are politicians. That’s what they do. My take on the need for marriage equality in Australia is this.

Social inclusion is a determinant of health. To be socially included is to see an increase in belonging, acceptance and recognition. The lack of marriage equality in Australia is a key indicator of our country coming to grips with common sense but saying to many, many Australians, that we belong, are accepted and our love recognised alongside every body else. Currently, this lack of access to marriage sends a significant signal to the rainbow community, particularly our youth who feel they do not belong, are not accepted as equals and whose love is not recognised. Social exclusion is also a precursor to suicide and self harm, so do the maths.

As a country we need to have equal marriage rights to send that social inclusion message loud and clear. Particularly to the rainbow youth.

For 2014/2015 our government allocated $30 billion on defence force spending. If we have that much money to go toward wars and hate, surely we must have space in our country’s heart to let in same sex love.

Happy NAIDOC week everyone. Let’s make 2015 the year we let love in.

Dameyon Bonson is the founder of Black Rainbow and a social commentator. He also provides independent advice on Indigenous LGBTI suicide prevention and combating exclusion and strengthening inclusion for both the Indigenous and LGBTI people within organisation structures. You can follow Black Rainbow on Facebook and Twitter: @BlkRnBow

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**This story was first published in the June edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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