New Zealand was the fifteenth country in the world to institute same-sex marriage legislation when on 17 April 2013 our Parliament passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. This enabled same-sex and transgender couples the right to legally marry, twelve years after the first marriage equality laws were passed in The Netherlands, in 2001.
I was first appointed as an Independent Marriage Celebrant at the end of 2013, so for all my time working as a celebrant, marriage inequality has never, and thankfully will never, be an issue. In New Zealand, all consenting adults have the right to form a union in the deepest personal and legal sense, irrespective of their gender. Although only a few short years have passed since the law was changed, it is beginning to feel like as a country we’ve never known anything different!
Unfortunately, in Australia same-sex couples still can’t get married. We all know it and most of us don’t agree with it. Still the debate rages on and Australians now get the opportunity to have their voices heard. Though their postal vote is a non-binding referendum, the result will be the clearest signal so far as to whether Australians want their politicians to vote on creating legislation that would finally afford the same human rights to ALL of their citizens.
In November this year will be the wedding of the fourth same-sex couple I have married, who have come out from Australia specifically so they may have a legal marriage ceremony. While I warmly welcome my Australian same-sex couples as clients, ultimately I wish I didn’t have to and it seems absurd to me that our neighbours across the ditch, our closest friends and contemporaries in almost every other way, have not yet progressed beyond the debating stage on the road to marriage equality.
I think we all know that for them change is coming. Australia will catch up with the rest of the civilised world, and things WILL be different. But the issue of marriage equality isn’t just about legislation and law – it is more so an issue of social change. Change that ensures we allow the same respect, dignity, legal recognition and next-of-kin status to same-sex couples that we have provided to heterosexual couples forever. Nothing more, nothing less.