News National Same-sex marriage: What the High Court ruling means to me

Same-sex marriage: What the High Court ruling means to me

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tomloomesThomas Loomes

Age: 22

Lives: Sydney

Occupation: Works in hospitality and retail while studying a Bachelor of Arts in politics, international relations and modern history.

Relationship status: Single




“I was at work when I heard the news of the High Court decision. While I was disappointed and upset I wasn’t shocked. I understand how our government and the lawmaking processes work. They’re being used against something I truly believe in — the equality of a minority group that is missing out on a certain aspect of life — but I understand why they exist. I was mainly upset for the 27 couples that got married over the weekend because that is such a significant step in every relationship; it would be hard to have it overruled by a group of judges who are not experiencing the same absence of life. But the High Court is not the enemy. We simply have to change the federal legislature to allow all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

I’ve only spoken to my family about the ruling and they are disappointed. My parents have had a great experience together, they have been married for almost 30 years. Marriage doesn’t define who they are but it is an extremely important part of their lives. They celebrate their anniversary every year and make a big deal about it. My mother just wants me to have that too.

I think that as a child you always think about marriage, it’s always at the back of your mind. If you’re from a happy home and you see anniversaries and Valentines days every year you are informed by your experience. As I got older and after I came out at 17 I think marriage, in my mind, became less achievable for myself because of the state of the politics surrounding it.

When I fell in love a year later, it changed my opinion. You don’t understand the meaning of marriage until you have loved someone and wanted to marry them, even if it doesn’t work out in the end. You want the same experience as the couple next to you and marriage seems like the natural next step in a long-term relationship. A civil partnership just won’t do.

In my life I have found that when you’re gay and people know about it, they like to talk about it quite a lot. I think they’re trying to make you and themselves feel comfortable. I enjoy it because it’s a learning experience for both people involved and when discussing marriage equality nine times out of ten I hear a resounding “yes” in support of it – whether from close friends or people I have just met. Sure, I have encountered a few people with different opinions, but you can’t let that hurt you.

As a politically informed person I don’t see it as a great step backwards because ultimately it proves that there is movement. They’re smaller steps than we have seen in other countries but they’re the steps that are required in our country in order to reach the end goal.

If I could speak to the 27 couples who got married on the weekend I think I would tell them to keep their head up. They know how important and how special their relationships are with each other and this is definitely not the end. It’s not the beginning either, we are well and truly underway. The time will come.”

Suzie Keen (right) with partner Kylie. Picture: Contributed

Suzie Keen

Age: 45

Lives: Adelaide

Occupation: Features editor for InDaily, online publication

Relationship status: Engaged (will marry in New Zealand)

“So the High Court has struck down the ACT law that paved the way for same-sex marriage. You’ll have to excuse me for not stomping my sensible shoes or dissolving in tears. It’s not that I don’t care – I desperately want to say ‘I do’ to the woman I love – it’s just that the High Court ruling seemed sadly inevitable. And after several years listening to the lame excuses and shilly-shallying of Australia’s political leaders, it’s difficult to resist wallowing in a quagmire of dashed hopes and disillusionment.

Yesterday’s High Court judgement said the ACT Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 was inconsistent with current federal laws, which state that a marriage ‘can be solemnised only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same-sex couple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia. Essentially, it’s saying that only the Australian Federal Government – not the states and territories, nor overseas countries – can decide what constitutes a legal marriage.

For the 30 same-sex couples who took advantage of the small window of opportunity to wed in the ACT last weekend, this means their marriages are not legally valid. After the high of their public celebration of love and commitment, imagine the gut-wrenching disappointment they must feel now. Any anger, however, should be directed not at the High Court judges, but at the federal political leaders who have failed to show commitment to the principles of equality and a fair go on which this country prides itself.

While other nations – including France, New Zealand and the UK – have moved in recent years to legalise marriage equality, Australia seems dogged by outdated conservative attitudes that should have been left behind with all that ‘honour and obey’ business. After a marriage proposal etched in the sand on a windswept Kangaroo Island beach several years ago, my partner and I initially considered eloping to Canada so we could have a “real” marriage.

But after being overwhelmed by all the family and friends who wanted to help us celebrate, we then dithered between two closer options: Australia, where we live, and New Zealand, the country of my birth. It became a waiting game, with both countries considering legislation that would legalise marriage equality. While the Australian Bills were doomed to failure, the Kiwi one passed by a vote of 77-44. There were tears of joy, as we watched live coverage of New Zealand MPs from all political spectrums speaking out against prejudice and bigotry and in favour of love, equality and family. Here was a country that seemed 100 per cent more progressive.

The decision of where we would marry was decided then and there. I had goose bumps when people in the public gallery of the NZ Parliament started singing Pokarekare Ana after the vote was counted. I hope one day the Australian Federal Parliament will give me cause to feel that same pride and excitement. Some marriage-equality advocates say that while yesterday’s High Court ruling is disappointing, there is cause for optimism. Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the decision made it clear that the Constitution allowed the Federal parliament to legislate for marriage equality. Defending her government’s decision to enact marriage equality, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher argued defeat in the High Court would compel the Federal Parliament to act.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young yesterday introduced a marriage-equality Bill to parliament, while a Greens MP in Western Australia introduced a state same-sex marriage Bill that she believes could survive a High Court challenge. But ultimately, change will require both major political parties to allow a conscience vote on the issue, and for politicians of all persuasions to embrace genuine equality. It will require an understanding that ‘tradition’ is not an acceptable excuse for a progressive modern country to discriminate against a significant proportion of society.

Momentum is growing and I am grateful for the equality advocates who refuse to go quietly into the night. They remind me that we shouldn’t let the bastards get us down, and that the fight for equality must continue. Surely those 30 couples who married in the ACT last weekend will eventually have cause to celebrate again. Surely my own marriage – and those of the thousands of other Australian same-sex couples who wed overseas – will one day be recognised in our own country.”