Lisa Story wants a small wedding. “It’s going to be minimum fuss,” she says. “We’re just so grateful to be able to be married.”
But before Lisa can marry Hayley, her partner of 10 years, the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey must return a yes vote and a marriage equality bill must pass parliament.
Lisa and Hayley met online over a decade ago. A friendship blossomed into a romance, and two or three years in, Lisa realised that she wanted to share her life with Hayley. “I’ll get in trouble for that. She’d probably say it was earlier,” Lisa laughs.
When I speak to Lisa she is on holidays in Phillip Island with Hayley and their two sons, Patrick, three, and Jonathan, 18 months. They’ll be on the island when they hear the results of the postal survey on Wednesday.
When the government announced the survey in August, Lisa was overcome with anger. She was surprised by the strength of her reaction. “I’m quite a laidback person. I guess it was because it was about my family and my kids. It was deeply personal,” she reflects.
“I realised there wasn’t much point being angry and doing nothing. I became quite involved – lots of our friends did – trying to convince people to vote yes.”
In September, Lisa appeared in a video for Australian Marriage Equality’s #RingYourRellos campaign. She called her grandma, who assured her granddaughter that she would vote yes. It was an emotional conversation, Lisa says. “She made some really beautiful comments about our boys and Hayley and I as parents,” says Lisa, which, for the sake of brevity, didn’t make the final cut.
The video had nearly 1 million views and was shared all over the country. “It went crazy. It got a lot of media attention – everyone wanted to talk to my grandma. We got a lot of thanks from people in the community for doing it. People saw it as a really brave thing, which is funny, because at the time I don’t think I ever saw it as brave.”
Lisa and Hayley have been careful to shield their boys from the campaign. “We turned the TV off. We haven’t seen any of the No ads that people talk about,” says Lisa. She told her family that they were happy to discuss the postal survey, but only when they boys were out of earshot. “Hayley and I have been very careful to wait until they go to bed before we talked about it.”
The only day the boys noticed anything was when a skywriter scrawled the word ‘NO’ in the sky above Sydney. Patrick thought it was writing ‘JON’ – his little brother’s name.
As it comes to an end, I ask Lisa about her experience of the campaign. “It was mostly very sad,” she says, but acknowledges there were positive moments. Lisa works as a manager at property group Investa, which she says is one of the few that came out to support marriage equality publicly. “I’m very proud to say that I work for them,” she says. “My office has gone out their way to be supportive.”
Family rallied around her too. “Lots of people wrote and said they voted yes. Those things were all really important.”
No matter what result is announced on Wednesday, Lisa and Hayley will spend the day with their children. “If it’s no, it’ll hurt,” says Lisa. “We’ll be sad, but I suspect that, ultimately, we’ll pick back up and keep pressing on for marriage equality. It’s something that is going to happen.”
If it’s yes, the couple will probably celebrate with dinner and a glass of wine after a trip to the koala sanctuary with the kids. “We’ll start thinking a little more optimistically about marriage equality becoming possible in the future,” she says cautiously.
Lisa is reluctant to set a date for their wedding, recognising that a ‘yes’ vote is the first step in a process that could drag out for months.
We’ll start thinking a little more optimistically about marriage equality becoming possible in the future
Nor have they told their boys about their wedding. “I don’t want to talk about something that still may not happen,” she says.
But if a marriage equality bill is passed and the wedding goes ahead, the boys will play an important part in the day. After all, Lisa says, “it is about them. We joke about them walking us down the aisle. Not that we’re having an aisle!”
If they are organised enough, they might take advantage of Sydney’s Inner West Council’s invitation for same-sex couples to marry free of charge in council halls and community centres for the first 100 days after marriage equality is legislated.
The family regularly attends birthday parties and playgroup at Annandale Community Centre. “It’s really nicely set out for kids,” says Lisa. “If we get our skates on, we’ll probably have it there.”