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Saturday 10 October 2015

Advance Australia fair

Posted in: Features
By Jacqui Stanford - 19th August 2015

Today marks two years since marriage equality came into effect in New Zealand. Despite all the loony claims about the impact it would have on our nation, gay people here are still ticking along.

Some are happily married, others happily or unhappily separated, and plenty are unwed, depending on whether matrimony is for them – or they have found someone they actually want to marry.

The Bill passed on 19 April 2013, allowing the first weddings to happen on August 19 that year.

Really, after all the fire and brimstone and cuckoo predictions of the great ‘gay marriage’ debate, little has changed. I still love my wife as much as I would if we weren’t married. And I am fairly certain our union has had absolutely no impact on anyone else’s marriage. How could it!?

In fact, pretty much nobody bats an eyelid when I mention ‘my wife’. Nobody with any intelligence or heart in this country cares. If anything, people are just generally interested and have a few questions, especially now we’re having a baby. They just want to learn and understand.

We all have our boring bigots, but they’re a waning breed. They had their moment in the sun. Some are still, now and then, banging on about it, but nobody really listens to their weird criticisms of the lives of people who couldn’t care less.

So don’t worry Australia, once it’s all done and dusted, the media will stop giving them much attention.

It’s just a matter of getting it done and dusted, huh?

In New Zealand we were fortuitous. MP Louisa Wall, whose legislation was so providentially plucked from a Ballot packed with potential law changes, has her own theory about the intervention of ‘Rainbow Gods’.

We also have a leader who, for his foibles, puts Tony Abbott to shame in this arena. John Key was zapped by inspiration, from either Barack Obama or Louisa’s Rainbow Gods, and decided gay couples getting hitched was just fine by him – oft repeating that obvious point that it wouldn’t have any impact on his marriage.

It opened the door to cross-party efforts, and for our MPs to vote with their hearts. Other National MPs stepped up, including one Maurice Williamson whose ‘Big Gay Rainbow’ speech will go down in history.

MPs voted as they wished, other than members of New Zealand First, who called for a referendum at their leader’s behest, despite some of the MPs apparently being incredibly upset they couldn’t vote for the measure.

But we nailed the votes, sense won out, and so did New Zealand’s unofficial love anthem Pokarekare Ana.

It’s a poignant piece of poetry, with lines which translate to the likes of: “Oh girl return to me, I could die of love for you,” and “My love will never be dried by the sun. It will be forever moistened by my tears.”

It was a fitting song to pour out in Parliament when the Bill passed. It hit upon one of the weirdest of many weird lines to come out during our marriage equality debate, which I have since heard repeated across the Tasman, is that marriage somehow isn’t about love.

Tell that to these couples:

Melbourne-based couple Richard and Shane's Auckland wedding

Rudo and Joydah had a stunning ceremony at a West Auckland beach

Ralph and Rob cut the cake in Christchurch

That's us, at our civil union - we had a low key 'upgrade' a year later.

Say it's not about love to the Australian couples flocking here to wed. Say it to Tasmanian pair Lee Bransden and Sandra Yates, who came to Rotorua to marry, because thanks to Bransden’s terminal illness they don’t have time to wait around for politicians to recognise the LOVE they share. LOVE that was so powerful it reverberated around the world and caused strangers to pay for their wedding.

So much love at the wedding of Lee and Sandra

They are married, yet it’s not recognised in Australia. Yates has to change her last name by deed poll.

It’s the same for my wife. She also is Australian you see. So for us it’s personal too. Our marriage is not recognised in the nation in which she was born and still, irksomely, supports on the sports field. (Go the ABs!)

But that rivalry aside for a second, one place I’d dearly love to see Australia to win is in this marriage equality fight.

I’d really love our son, when he is born sometime in October, to grow up proud of his heritage on both sides, Kiwi and Aussie. I can envision remarking to his puzzled face one day, in a surely much more enlightened world, “can you believe us being married was illegal in Australia when you were a born!?”

The same way it puzzles me gay male sex was still illegal here in New Zealand when I was born.

Odds are, in a few decades, it will seem just as silly.

Jacqui Stanford - 19th August 2015

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