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'I am one of the few Australians in a legal same-sex marriage'.

Penny and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next year.

When Penny and I walked down the aisle of St Eanswythe’s Anglican Church Altona, we were able to stand together and declare before our closest friends and family that we’d found the love of our lives. It was the day that Australian law recognised our lifelong commitment to each other.

Together Penny and I have built a life and a family around our marriage. We’ve brought up two lovely sons. We negotiate who cooks, who shops and who puts the bins out. We cheer on our beloved Western Bulldogs on the weekend.

It was 17 years ago that Peter, as she was then, shared his deepest secret with me – he’d been secretly dressing in women’s clothing all his life and his desire to be female was not going away. It was a huge thing for us to work through, but the love we affirmed for each other at our wedding overcame all.

Senator Janet Rice and partner Penny.

So Peter is now Penny. Our marriage is a rare instance of a legally recognised Australian same-sex marriage.

The unity is stronger than ever.

It does not make sense that some couples are denied this right. Our law has not caught up with the diversity of relationships within Australian society.

Neither has our Prime Minister, who continues to argue “it’s a definitional thing”.

This is much more than definitional. It is discrimination that is impacting the everyday lives of thousands of committed Australian couples and their families.

Tony Abbott is on the wrong side of history.

Tony Abbott is on the wrong side of history.

In the 1950s, Aboriginal woman Gladys Namagu was denied the right to marry her white fiancé Mick Daly. In response, the Menzies government promised this kind of discrimination would never be written into Australian marriage law.

More than half a century later, the party room that Menzies once led has not yet been allowed that very liberal concept of a free vote on discrimination in the Marriage Act. Australia is now the only developed English speaking country left in the world that does not allow equal marriage.

In June, ‘Freedom Commissioner’ Tim Wilson released a groundbreaking report highlighting the discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ community and the unacceptably high rates of marginalisation, bullying, harassment and violence.

“Marriage is an important institution that reflects a cultural understanding of [a] relationship,” the report said. “By not extending marriage to same-sex couples, the social exclusion of same-sex couples is perpetuated.”

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Why would anyone want to continue this destructive discrimination?

There are the Helen Lovejoy-types, who cry “won’t somebody please think of the children?”

But same-sex couples have already got kids and they live healthy, fulfilling lives. Penny and mine certainly are! A recent Melbourne University study found children from same-sex parent families are generally healthier, better behaved and more cohesive.

The study found one thing holding these kids back is the increased stigma, which impacts on mental health.

Janet, Penny and their son.

We can reduce this stigma by allowing their parents to marry.

Then there are Chicken Littles who predict that marriage equality will lead to polygamy – but they cannot point to any serious push down this slippery slope in any of the countries that are ahead of us.

For many Australians, recent excitement of marriage equality success in Ireland and the US was also a stark reminder of how far we are lagging behind.

We could catch up by the end of the year, but Tony Abbott must allow a free vote in the coalition party room.

Our constitution means we don’t need a referendum or court judgement for equality. A plebiscite would be a needless waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to find out what we already know – that the vast majority of Australians, around 72 per cent, support this reform.

The best way to secure equality is a cross-party bill that defines marriage as being between two consenting adults regardless of sex, sexuality or gender identity.

In 2013, the Prime Minister’s wife Margie said, “I think that love, commitment, are things that should be recognised and I think it’s a conversation that Australia needs to have”.

Penny and I are proof of the value of recognising such love and commitment. It is only fair that every loving couple has the opportunity to pledge their commitment before the law.

Senator Janet Rice is the Australian Greens spokesperson for marriage equality and LGBTIQ issues.

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