relationships

Peter and Bon have loved each other for 50 years but they're running out of time.

Dr Shirleene Robinson is the National Spokesperson and Director for Australian Marriage Equality

As Sydney’s 2017 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade approaches, all Australians are given an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in building an inclusive nation that embraces diversity. There are some stories, though, that remind us that there is still much to be achieved and that the personal cost of inequality still reverberates through our community.

The 50 year relationship of two courageous and community-minded men, Peter de Waal and Peter “Bon” Bonsall-Boone, is one such story. This couple have shared half a century of memories together, yet they are still waiting for the chance to have their lifelong love and commitment recognised with a marriage certificate under Australian law.

Last year, surrounded by a wide circle of friends and family, Peter and Bon shared a beautiful anniversary celebration to commemorate their many years of love and devotion. The crowded hall was filled with warmth and joy as the two men exchanged rings presented to them by their honorary grandson. Applause erupted at their deeply moving display of love and emotion as they reminisced about their journey together. Amongst the joy though, there was urgency to the words the men spoke. Bon is navigating serious health challenges, and it was important to the couple to publicly celebrate their lifetime together and the support and strength they have always drawn from each other.

Peter and Bon have been together for 50 years. Source: Supplied

This year, Peter and Bon will lead the Equality Campaign float at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – calling passionately for action on a parliamentary vote on marriage equality. They courageously participated in the first Mardi Gras in 1978, drawing attention to the many social and legal prejudices that gay men and lesbians faced. This year, they will participate to emphasise the personal cost of denying marriage equality to loving couples.

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Peter and Bon have spent 50 years together, caring for each other through sickness and health, for better or worse, and they are still are unable to receive an Australian marriage certificate. They are worried that their time will run out before they can receive this recognition.

Peter & Bon said ‘I do’ more than 50 years ago! This Mardi Gras they will be marching with The Equality Campaign, calling on the government to pass #MarriageEquality — so they can finally have their relationship recognised with a marriage certificate.

Posted by Australian Marriage Equality on Wednesday, 1 March 2017

I had the privilege of standing in the hall at Peter and Bon’s anniversary celebration and ceremony. As a lesbian who lives in a world where so much has been achieved by trailblazers like Peter and Bon, I am keenly aware of the debt I owe those who have spent so long working to overcome prejudice. They stood up for the equality of LGBTIQ people when doing so carried with it considerable personal and professional risk.

I married my partner of ten years in 2014 – a marriage conducted under British law that is not recognised in Australian law. The bravery of Peter and Bon, and others like them, has made it possible for us and many others to live out and proud. We are humbled by the sacrifices they have made. Their openness about their lives and their contribution to society has touched the hearts and minds of Australians, showing them that we are their friends, neighbours, colleagues and family.

Dr Shirleene Robinson with her wife, Sarah. Source: Supplied

Marriage equality will not resolve all the issues that LGBTIQ people face in Australia. We have come along way but there is still a distance to traverse and we must continue to work towards achieving a fair and equal society where all can achieve their potential, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.

Countless Australians across the country stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter and Bon in their determination to achieve full equality for LGBTIQ people. Some will march down Oxford Street on parade night, others will tell their personal story at a marriage equality town hall forum, or talk to their local Federal MP in their hometown or in Canberra.

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Denying loving couples equal relationship recognition under civil law impacts all of us. Parents and grandparents would love the opportunity to share the joy that a wedding brings. They appreciate the sense of security that such a union can provide to their children and grandchildren. Heterosexual siblings feel keenly the injustice of having access to an institution that denies their LGBTIQ brothers or sisters the same equality of opportunity. Friends regret that they cannot support their LGBTIQ friends through one of life’s important milestones. This Mardi Gras, in 2017, we are closer to marriage equality than ever before. The human stories behind the campaign remind us just why we must continue to fight for equality.

These are the photos Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull needs to see today...

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