• Sani Ray Townson and his partner Ross have been together for 13 years. (Supplied)
Torres Strait Islander artist and dancer, Sani Ray Townson has been passionately vocal about the impact the plebiscite decision has had on him personally as an openly gay man and submitted a statement to NITV.
By
Sani Ray Townson

23 Aug 2017 - 3:34 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2017 - 9:30 AM

It took me a while to get to where I am today - living as a proud gay man. I was ridiculed my childhood, made fun of and laughed at. Bein' called names such as “gayboy” as opposed to RayBoy, and "tiger shark", a derogatory term used up North for 'prowling' gay men.   

I’ve had to fight all these names my whole childhood and teenage life. It took me to leave my hometown of Townsville to find the true me. 

I am grateful for my family to have accepted me and my partner Ross. Some Indigenous families don’t accept our sexuality because they deem our way of life sinful.

I have finally found the man who loves me for me, regardless of my skin colour; because we love each for our hearts and what we offer each other.

When we are shunned from our biological family, we then create our own family; people who support and love us. These people become our 'rainbow family'.

I have finally found the man who loves me for me, regardless of my skin colour; because we love each for our hearts and what we offer each other. Yes, our love is never smooth, but at the end of the day we are there for each other - just like any other marriage. I know in my heart that I will always be with this man, Ross Andrew, until the day I die. 

My Uncle Percy was with his partner Geoffrey for 23 years until he passed on. He always considered him and Geoffrey to be 'married' and even wore a ring on his wedding finger. My man and I are just 10 years shy of that milestone. I would be happy to simply have the longevity of his relationship, but I also want to be able to celebrate my love and share this joyous occasion with all my family and friends. I deserve to able to stand by my man and declare to the world that he is my husband and I am his - till death do we part. 

Beyond the love we have for one another and in regards to “rights”, I want Ross to be able have access to me if something bad were to happen, as married people do. He is my family, my every day and we share a life together that we work hard for. I want him to be able be a part of the decision-making with my family when it's related to me. Even though my family love and see him as a part of our family and even see him as a part of our custom, after watching the documentary 'Bridegroom' (the true story of a man deprived of any legal protection after his live partner dies), I never want this kind of heartache for him. Not having this basic right is scary as a gay couple. 

I see my gay friends who live overseas marry their respective partners. Their countries have voted 'yes' and believe that ‘love is love' and all I can do is wish that this will happen for me.

It wasn't too long ago that our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to ask for permission from the Government to marry the one’s that they loved. So I think to myself, why am I taking this massive step backwards, once again, and fighting the system that oppresses our rights?

It wasn't too long ago that our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to ask for permission from the Government to marry the one’s that they loved. So I think to myself, why am I taking this massive step backwards, once again, and fighting the system that oppresses our rights? Last I checked, I too am a human being like you, I bleed like you, I shed tears like you, my heart breaks just like you and I can harbour anger and frustration like you.

But my question to the Government is this - why are we spending millions of dollars on a question that you are constantly stalling the answer for - when the answer is right in front of your face? Dangling that 'gay marriage' carrot in front of us is becoming quite tiresome. You seem to be bringing this topic up when you are masking other issues. Other issues such as the injustice in the deaths of our Aboriginal youngsters

When it comes the 'sanctity of marriage', it is said to be between a man and a woman. I got that. Okay, cool ... But tell me what emotion triggers marriage. It is love

Is love blind? Yes 
Is love grand? Yes 
Is love ever smooth? No 
Does love have a gender? No
Does love have a skin colour? No
 
Love is love. 

Like the lyrics of the 1981 Champaign track, some people are made for each other some people can love one another for life ... How 'bout us?

The day I introduced my partner Ross to my grandfather, Bishop Sania Guy Townson he asked me, “do you love him my boy?”. I replied, “Yes I do Grandad”. He replied, "if this makes you happy then, there is nothing we can do. If you are happy then we all happy.”

I am grateful to have two families who love Ross and I. A white family who love me like their own. And my big hearted Torres Strait Island family who now have a white son.

My name is Sani Ray and I am a proud, no shame, out and proud gay Saibai Koedal Torres Strait Islander Man living in Sydney with my white Australian partner of 13 years. I think I have struggled enough in my life already. All I want to do is put a ring on it.

 

 

 


 

Information on the postal plebiscite 

Same-sex marriage: how to vote in the postal plebiscite
Heres everything you need to know about having your say in the postal vote on same-sex marriage. 

 

Is the vote compulsory? 

No, the postal vote is not compulsory. There has been backlash with this approach with some saying that this type of vote means more effort on the part of the voter and that will translate into a lower voter turnout.

The Government has said that they believe those who believe strongly enough will make that effort. “If they want to be part of the vote, they'll be part of it,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said.

How do I vote?

Many Australians (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) are not enrolled to vote, particularly those between the 18-24 age group. Firstly, you will need to make sure that all of your details on the electoral roll are correct and up to date. You have until midnight (AEST) on 24 August to register on the AEC website

Check your enrolment status here.

If you are not enrolled do so here.

Register as an overseas voter here 

The vote will be sent by mail to your registered address, where you will fill in your vote. By registering to enrol or changing your address, you will be on the electoral roll, which will make you compliant in compulsory voting in the future. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has confirmed it will provide a 'paperless option' for specific groups of people such as those with low vision or other disability. 

When will the vote happen?

Ballot papers will be sent out starting 12 September and you will have until 7 November to post them back.

What will the vote outcome mean?

The vote is non-binding and therefore on cannot legalise same-sex marriage on its own.

If the majority of votes received are a 'yes' - the Government will allow a private member's bill to be introduced to the house in the final sitting fortnight of 2017 at the end of the year. Parliament members will then be given a free vote on the matter.

If the majority of votes recieved are a 'no' - The bill will not proceed.

How is the community feeling?

Speaking in Parliament, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy spoke out about the unfair disadvantage to the remote Aboriginal communities that make up 30 per cent of the Northern Territory population. The majority of these communities don't have street addresses and would require a longer and more thorough period of time for votes to be considered in this important issue. The impact of those who identify as LGBTQI in the Aboriginal community was also touched upon.

"It impacts them on the personal level, because no-one likes to be talked about or have their lives exposed in such a public way," McCarthy said.

"But on another level, there is the critical day to day survival issues that matter the most right across the country for our mob. Looking for a house, looking for a job, putting food on the table for the family."

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