On Friday (15 March 2013) I had the privilege of appearing with the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby at the Legislative Council inquiry hearings into state-based same-sex marriage laws. While the Lobby’s co-convenor Justin Koonin gave some brilliant introductory comments on behalf of the Lobby and gay and lesbian communities more generally, I was able to give an introductory statement outlining how the issue of marriage equality affects me personally (and of course Steve too, who attended in the public gallery).
Below is the text of the statement which I read out at the inquiry hearings (I will provide a link to the published transcript of the full proceedings, including questions and answers, when they are published on the NSW Parliament website):
NSW State Same-Sex Marriage Inquiry Introductory Comments
I have been asked to appear on behalf of the Lobby as both a Committee member, and as someone who is directly affected by whether state-based same-sex marriage is introduced in NSW.
My fiancé Steve and I have been together for more than four and a half years, and we have been engaged for more than 3. Needless to say, he made me the happiest man alive when he said yes when I asked him to marry me in January 2010. And yes, I did get down on bended knee to propose.
However, unlike most engaged couples, we knew that, because of the 2004 federal Marriage Act amendments, our prospective wedding would not be legally recognised in our own country, and that the federal government did not issue Certificates of Non Impediment to get married overseas.
Since then, we have been actively playing the ‘waiting game’’: waiting to see if the ALP National Conference would agree to marriage equality, waiting to see how federal parliament would vote, and now waiting to see whether NSW will introduce same-sex marriage – more than 3 years since Steve said “Of course I will”, we are still waiting to see whether we can both legally say “I do.”
Of course, we cannot and will not wait forever. Fortunately, CNIs can now be issued, so getting married in another country is a possibility. This could even include New Zealand, after this week’s successful 2nd reading debate vote there.
But getting married in another country is significantly more expensive, means that many family members and friends would not be able to attend our special day, and still would not be legally recognised at home.
Please don’t misunderstand me – we are glad to have more choices than we did back in January 2010. But those choices come with costs – legal, financial, social, and emotional. Steve and I, and thousands of other same-sex couples across NSW, are confronted with these negative consequences right now.
Critics of marriage equality often claim that its introduction would be a form of social engineering. To the contrary, I submit it is social engineering to determine that only people of a particular sexual orientation, or indeed gender identity or sex, have certain rights.
Surely it is an arbitrary and intrusive level of state intervention for governments to determine on these grounds whether a couple can get married under law, how long they might have to wait, whether they have to go overseas, and as a result, how much it costs, or even who can attend.
These are the real world consequences of the upcoming decision by NSW parliament on whether its same-sex attracted citizens can get married.