real life

Their love was equal. Their rights were not.

Yesterday, two men said goodbye to the loves of their life.

Two men whose partners were ripped from them seven days ago in the most unexpected and brutal of ways.

Two men who will never be the same because the person they chose to spend the rest of their lives with, is gone.

Two men who will have to forge a different future from the one they had so carefully planned and nurtured with their soul mate.

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Tori Johnson and Thomas Zinn. Image via Twitter.

And yet, these men are not equal in their grief. Not because of its depth or strength but because of who they loved.

Our country only recognises one of these men as a widower.

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Katrina Dawson and husband Paul Smith. Image via Twitter.

Both stood up yesterday to deliver eulogies for their lost loves.

But only one man was ever able to stand next to his partner, in front of their family and friends and joyfully declare their commitment as a couple to spend the rest of their lives together. Only one man could have that declaration recognised by Australian law.

Today I feel ashamed of that fact.

I am ashamed that Tori Johnson and Thomas Zinn were not able to be married in this great country of ours and that their love and commitment to one another was somehow officially seen to be unworthy of legal recognition.

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Volunteers remove the at Martin Place memorial for the siege victims.

We’ve heard how Tori and Thomas hoped to marry some day, when they legally could. And it is so devastating and unjust that day never came.

A few days ago, I attended the wedding of one of my closest friends. In the lead-up to the ceremony, she and her fiancé learned from their marriage celebrant that it was a legal requirement for the following sentence to be read out during the ceremony:  “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others”.

There are very few things you must legally say or do during a wedding ceremony for your marriage to be recognised under Australian law. Hardly any, in fact.

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Thomas and Tori’s father were amongst the family and friends who carried his coffin. Image via 9 News.

That sentence is one of them.

It wasn’t always this way. But in 2004, as community support began to grow for same-sex marriage, John Howard’s Government tried to stifle it by amending the Marriage Act to explicitly spell out that marriage was defined as being between a man and a woman. In doing so, Prime Minister John Howard and his Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, cemented a disgraceful and offensive piece of discrimination into law.

Hearteningly, many couples who are lucky enough to be legally allowed to marry are uncomfortable with these words being spoken during their wedding ceremonies.

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Images via Twitter.

At a moment of such love and celebration, it feels like an endorsement of discrimination and homophobia. They want no part of it. But since 2004, you cannot legally be married without those words stated out loud by the religious representative or celebrant who is marrying you.

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In response, celebrants are coming up with clever options for couples who support same-sex marriage (you can read about them here)

For my friend – Mamamia’s editor Jamila Rizvi – and her partner Jeremy, after giving it much thought (you can read about that process here), they chose to put up this sign outside the venue for guests to read before the ceremony.

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The sign on display at Jamila’s wedding.

It was an emotional and triumphant moment during their wedding ceremony when as one, we lifted our hands and blocked our ears against those hateful words.

I highly recommend it.

Today though, I wanted to say this to Thomas Zinn. I am so deeply sorry and ashamed that our government never allowed you and your beloved Tori to marry one another.

It is inconceivable in 2014 that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters do not have the same rights as straight people. On behalf of you and Tori and every other couple the law discriminates against, we will continue to fight for same-sex marriage to be legalised.

I am so desperately sorry for you and for Katrina’s husband Paul Smith whose lives have been irrevocably derailed by such a cruel and senseless act of madness.

Please know that the arms of the whole country are holding up both of you, and your families in the darkness of grief.

Rest in peace Tori and Katrina.

You were both loved so much.

Full coverage of yesterday’s memorials can be found here:

Remembering Katrina Dawson: “Mummy is in heaven. And heaven is in my heart.”

Today, Tori Johnson’s friends celebrated his “love, generosity and life.”

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