I always wanted to get married and have children.
When heterosexual people become serious in a relationship, there’s a natural curiosity about whether marriage and children are in the couple’s future. Our society has an old and established way of recognising those relationships and when a heterosexual couple wants that kind of recognition, they get married. Unfortunately, this is still not an option for same-sex couples in Australia.
Around the world, we now have cultural images of gays and lesbians creating families in various ways. In 2008 my partner and I decided we wanted to have children. As a lawyer, I was quite surprised by the number of special laws governing lesbian families and the ignorance around those laws. I was also struck by the fact that there were few resources available to Australian lesbians interested in marriage and children. I became more passionate about the law and began working with lesbians seeking legal advice in my professional life.
Although we know that “love makes a family”, I also know that the law is an incredibly powerful force in how we make and maintain those families as lesbians.
The law in Australia has slowly evolved to recognise same-sex couples as de facto partners and to recognise both mothers on their child’s birth certificate. But the fact that same-sex couples still can’t marry in Australia tells us that our relationships and our children are still not accepted by society. It also invalidates our children’s view of their own family structure. It’s time for change. It’s 2017. What is “normal” anymore?
Nicole and her kids. Image: supplied.
Australia remains one of the last Western countries to legitimise same-sex marriage. Whilst the marriage equality movement has made significant progress in lobbying the federal government for reform, I still can’t be someone’s wife. It’s time the government acknowledged that our families, that my family, is real. My children deserve to have their family unit validated in the eyes of the law the same way as a child of a heterosexual marriage.
The purpose of marriage legislation is to confirm the commitment of two individuals to one another, and refusing same-sex couples the right to marry sends the message that they cannot live in a committed relationship, which is untrue.
We know that research shows children of same-sex couples are well-adjusted children. We know that legitimising a family is in a child’s best interests. We know that same-sex couples can nurture successful, long-term committed relationships. So why can’t same-sex partners marry legally in Australia? Why can’t the government make the changes to the Marriage Act to give every Australian the same human rights?
If history has taught us anything, it is that it is not ok to discriminate based on race, religion, gender, ability, age, or nationality. So why should sexual orientation be any different? I deserve the right to marry the person I love.
We have a message for Malcolm Turnbull about the marriage equality postal vote. (Post continues after audio.)
There have been many stories of same-sex couples who, because their relationship wasn’t legally recognised, had estranged parents stepping in after an accident preventing the surviving partner from having any part in decision-making, from not being listed on the death certificate as a partner or spouse, and even losing custody of their children. Discriminating against a person based on who they love is not only detrimental to our country’s social well-being, it is a breach of our citizen’s fundamental human rights. Of my human rights.
Through conceiving, birthing, and raising my own two children, I became deeply aware of the ways in which Australian law impacts same-sex parents and the inadequacies around them. I am the non-birth mother to my 7-year-old daughter, and birth mother to my 6-year-old son. Because of my children, I have become a particular kind of writer, activist, and lawyer. I have implicated myself in the movement for marriage equality, and it's my hope that when my children are grown and have families of their own, that this movement will be obsolete because marriage equality will have been extended to all couples.
"There's a conversation I don't want to have with my kids."
I imagine two future conversations with my children. In one, I try to explain to them why I can’t get married to the woman I love. In the second, I announce to them that there is going to be a wedding in the family. Which of those conversations will actually happen is up to all of us.
I dream of a world for my children where they can be whatever they want, love whomever they want, and marry whomever they choose.
I hope this world is just over the horizon.
- Dear straight people… These words will help your gay friends through this marriage equality mess.
- The 17 silliest reasons for voting “No” to marriage equality.
- NAMA WINSTON: “I’m divorced so please stop talking about the ‘sanctity’ of marriage as a reason to vote no.”
NICOLE EVANS is a 36-year old LESBIAN, LAWYER, and MOTHER to two beautiful children. She is the non-birth mother to her 7-year-old daughter and the birth mother to her 6-year-old son. Nicole is the author of Lesbians and the Law: A Guidebook for Australian Families, which you can read about here.
Nicole is passionate about the law. She loves writing and is the legal writer for Lesbian Parenting
Australia and has been published in The Huffington Post Australia. Nicole is also an avid cook and appeared on Season One of Come Dine with Me Australia and Season One of Masterchef Australia.
In her career as a Principal Director at the Sydney law firm Uther Webster & Evans, Nicole found a lack of understanding around the legal aspects of gay and lesbian relationships and parenting rights. By publishing this book, she hopes that all those who choose to venture on the path to parenthood are fully informed of their legal rights and responsibilities.