This week New Zealand became the latest country, and the first in the Pacific region, to legalise same-sex marriage. I am thrilled that half my friends in mixed-race marriages (Kiwis and Aussies) and all my friends in all-Kiwi marriages now have their commitment to their partner recognised in their home country.
The general practice when someone gets married is to congratulate them, and now they’re all legally married in New Zealand it should be the right thing to do. Except they’re not married here, where they live, so I’m not quite sure what to do.
Every time another country recognises same-sex marriage we celebrate that victory. I’ve been struck by the indignity of having to get up before parliamentary committees, or on Q&A, or even at the dinner table with our extended biological families and argue in favour of extending rights to my people that are a given for the rest of the community. Why should I have to do that? Why should any of us? There should not even be a debate about it – it should be a given.
Recently, former Republican presidential nominee Rick Santorum commented that the television show Will & Grace was responsible for starting the campaign for marriage equality. However, in 1989 Denmark became the first country in the world to legally recognise same-sex unions, though not through marriage.
In 2000 the Netherlands became the first country to legislate in favour of same-sex marriage, however the first same-sex marriages were performed in Canada in January 2001.
In Australia we have relationship registries in the states of NSW, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.
In the USA, various states have passed laws permitting some form of registered partnerships over the last 20 years. The right of a state to legislate on marriage is currently before the Supreme Court in the United States. In the 1960s Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg took on sex discrimination one state and one law at a time and we must do the same with equal marriage.
We must continue to celebrate the victories that bring us closer to equality and anticipate that, like sex discrimination laws, discrimination based on sexual orientation will fall like dominoes.