Politics

It’s taken an embarrassingly long time to get marriage equality, but finally, it’s done | Ivan Hinton-Teoh | Australia news

Finally. It’s done. Australia has amended the Marriage Act to include LGBTI citizens. What a relief, huh?

Relief, rather than unfettered joy, is likely to be the broad Australian response in achieving marriage equality because it has taken too long and the process has been too taxing on our community.

I expect opponents will be unhappy with the outcome, but we will all share some sense of relief that, after dominating political discussion for over 13 years, we will no longer have to campaign on the issue any more.

It has taken our political establishment an embarrassingly long time to reflect the will of the nation which has challenged our international reputation of being the country of a fair go.

The embarrassment was only compounded when the Turnbull government pushed for an entirely unnecessary plebiscite/postal vote/survey.

After spending $122m and dragging LGBTI Australians through the unseemly and unprecedented process, we discovered the silent majority supports marriage equality, confirming every scientific poll conducted for the last 10 years.

I remain furious that LGBTI Australians were denied direct access to Australia’s representative democracy. We had to suffer the indignity of a national poll first.

Equality will not exist in Australia for as long as any government denies equal process to a minority group like ours.

It’s hard to be elated today, in the way other nations celebrated this significant milestone.

With absolute dignity and due process, the supreme court in the United States affirmed equal treatment under the law was a constitutional right. Its citizens could celebrate being treated equally in both marriage and in the process that affirmed it.

No other nation that has achieved marriage equality did so by carving out a new and unnecessary hurdle for its LGBTI citizens to jump through first.

In his parliamentary speech on Dean Smith’s bill, the prime minister admonished those who stood in the way of the plebiscite, forgetting that he too once had the conviction to oppose this hurdle.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the MPs and senators who challenged the government to address the reform within normal processes. Like all Australians, we should be entitled to that.

I am grateful that those MPs and senators saw the humanity of LGBTI Australians and chose not to place the weakest of us in harms way for political convenience.

The treatment of LGBTI Australians throughout this campaign is something a future government may choose to apologise for.

Couples who were legally married in Canada were denied their day in an Australian court, as they sought legal recognition of their unions by a swift amendment to the Marriage Act in 2004.

Transgender Australians were forced to divorce their supportive spouses, lest their transition resulted in a same-sex marriage.

Intersex and non-binary Australians were provided the opportunity of legally identifying as neither male nor female, but doing so was to be excluded from being able to marry anyone under the binary Marriage Act.

Couples seeking to marry overseas were actively denied certificates of non-impediment by the Australian government, preventing many from marrying where it was legal to do so.

In 2013, with continued federal resistance to reform, the ACT government provided a new type of marriage for LGBTI couples. Thirty-one couples, including Chris and I, were married. These couples experienced the indignity of the federal government challenging their marriages in the high court and, unfortunately, succeeding in having these marriages voided.

Imagine experiencing that.

This morning I wished Chris a happy wedding anniversary. We have collected a few due to the obstructions placed in our way.

Today, 7 December, is the anniversary of our marriage that the Abbott government voided, denying us dignity and formal, legal recognition.

Today the Australian parliament finally extends us that recognition that successive parliaments have denied.

This week I’m in Singapore, campaigning remotely while the just.equal team is, once again, walking the halls of parliament, meeting with MPs and senators as we have for many years. I missed the final vote while supporting my husband on his work trip.

As our plane arrives in Canberra on Monday we will look at each other and say what has become a habit as we touch down in so many other countries: “Cool, we’re married here.”

Finally.

Ivan Hinton-Teoh is founder of just.equal and former deputy director of Australian Marriage Equality


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