• Ellen and Carina (left, photo by Fiona Vail) and Antony and Ron (right). (Provided)
Chloe Sargeant re-interviews some of the couples who fought for same-sex marriage and discovers how their lives have changed.
By
Chloe Sargeant

15 Nov 2018 - 10:02 AM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2018 - 10:02 AM

During the same-sex marriage postal survey, I interviewed close to 300 LGBTIQ+ and gender non-conforming people from all around Australia. 

I felt it was important that, while news stories about people that didnt want us to have equal rights were constant, that I was delivering an accurate and honest portrayal of exactly how the LGBTIQ+ community was feeling. The responses I received were heartbreaking and vulnerable, yet inspirational in their power and resilience.

One of the stories I wrote was about couples who had been waiting for the law to change, so they could finally get marriedsome, for decades.

One year on, with the harmful national debate behind us and marriage laws finally updated, I decided to re-interview some of these couples.

Ellen and Carina, Lightning Ridge

Ellen and Carina are both primary school teachers, and met when Ellen accepted a teaching job in a rural area shed never heard of before. Carina was working at the same school, and they clicked immediately.

They got engaged in October last year, and when the postal survey began, had to postpone their nuptial plans because they werent sure what kind of ceremony they were actually organising - a commitment ceremony or a marriage.

But, equality prevailed, and Ellen and Carina were legally wed in an intimate ceremony on a gorgeous Tasmanian headland last month, surrounded by their families and best friends.

Ellen tells me the most special moment of their day was becoming wife and wife: To us, it was perfect. We actually both struggle to talk about it about without getting emotional!

I asked her what the kids they teach thought, and she told me laughingly, They were mainly just upset they werent invited!

One of kids nonchalantly asked her, "So, who will wear the big white dress?!. Ellen tells me that innocent questions out the mouths of babes like this remind her that her marriage will assist the next generation in learning and becoming more inclusive.For the next generation, this will be the norm for them, they wont think its anything different - and thats beautiful.

They say that the postal survey is incredibly hard to move past, but it showed how the community is able to mobilise and fight for what matters: Theres still a lot of work to be done to protect trans rights; theres also LGBTIQ+ inclusivity in education, and discrimination in the workplace and religious institutions. I dont want people to forget this; I want this fighting spirit to stay alive.

Kirsti and Nikki, Broken Hill

Kirsti and Nikki met on ONeill soccer pitch in 2013, playing the game they both love. 

The pair have fought hard over the years to become married, but the same-sex marriage legislation was not the end of their fight theyve decided they couldnt in good faith get married until every state abolishes laws around transgender people being forced to divorce. While Victoria did this recently, Tasmania, NT, and WAs laws remain intact.

This is an issue close to Kirstis heart - as a transgender woman, she faced the heartbreaking reality of being forced to divorce her childhood sweetheart in 2006, which she says nearly killed her

The day my wife [and Is] marriage was terminated, I collapsed on the floor of the court.

I could not marry whilst my trans brothers and sisters are still being forced to divorce.Every Australian deserves marriage equality.

The couple plead with Australia not to lose momentum, and they feel many assume the battle is won. I am absolutely disappointed with 95% of the marriage equality advocates and politicians who gave up the fight for marriage equality the day the YES vote was won,Kirsty explains. Almost 12 months after marriage equality was partially achieved, my community is still the one suffering.

However, Kirsti and Nikki tell me that when forced divorce is abolished country-wide, they have happy plans for their big day, which will happen on the pitch where they first met. We still plan to play a soccer game on our wedding day, and every anniversary! We will be eating traditional tucker made by some beautiful Barkandji Sisters of mine.

Ron and Antony, Melbourne

Last year, this long-time activist couple told me that they had been waiting decades to legally marry one another, and had had at least sixteen commitment ceremonies - some with loved ones, and some as public protests.

Now, Ron and Antony are finally happily married. In fact, they married on the first day that it was legally available to same-sex couples, January 9.

Upon asking whether their wedding day was an intimate affair, they both laugh, and explain that the event- which was held on the stage where they first met as drama students - involved more than 150 people, multiple musical acts, drag cabaret legend Dolly Diamond as MC, and even a media wrangler. So, it was more like a music festival with a bonus marriage ceremony? YES!they exclaim happily.

They tell me one of the standout moments was when the celebrant spoke the legally required words of the monitum from the Marriage Act, the union of two people to the exclusion of all othersinstead of union of a man and a woman

There was a huge round of applause, the crowd went wild.

When the couple look back on the postal survey period, they tell me its a painful memory. Were never going to forgive; were never going to forget the pain.

But we always said this was a fight for LGBTIQ+ equality, not just about marriage. We still have a lot of work to do, and were determined to keep the fight up.

Australia Says Yesairs on SBS on November 15 at 7:30 pm. 

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