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?