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It’s just love…actually

Amanda Whitley

This week a Canberra publication splashed their front page with the faces of one local couple threatening to divorce if marriage equality is introduced, allowing same sex couples to marry.

In response, we’ve updated the following article discussing the simplicity of marriage equality which harks from that historic short time when same sex unions were legal in the ACT. We’ve also asked a few of the HerCanberra team to share their views on the issue. 

One Sunday in 2013, I walked in on my two girls looking at the front page of The Canberra Times, and discussing the beautiful picture of two brides sharing a kiss.

“You know Liv, some boys at my preschool don’t believe that boys can marry boys, and girls can marry girls,” said the (then) five-year-old Sophia.

“Of course they can…as long as they love each other, anyone can get married,” said the very wise (then) Miss Seven.

That is what we have raised our daughters to believe. If only it was that simple.

I write this article from the point of view of a straight married woman in staunch and passionate support of same-sex marriage. I know that, in Canberra at least, I am (mostly) among like-minded people…but I don’t kid myself that my beliefs are universally accepted. I mean, one only has to look at the Australian Parliament.

As the Founder of HerCanberra, one thing that has really struck me is the number of ‘unlikes’ I get from our Facebook page or newsletter whenever I post something in favour of gay marriage. Because I just kind of assume that it’s a no brainer.

I have rarely been as proud to call myself a Canberran than on 22 October, 2013 when the ACT Legislative Assembly passed a bill to establish Australia’s first same-sex marriage scheme, allowing same sex couples to fulfil their dream of being married.

For one weekend in December, that dream became a reality for around a dozen couples. One of Canberra’s best photographers, Martin Ollman, was there to capture some of the beautiful moments. And the ceremonies were breathtaking – emotional and brimming with the love that we expect from any wedding. How can anyone look at these photos and say that the relationships depicted in them are wrong?

I went to school with Mandy, who married her partner Katrina that weekend – back then, in a small country town, same-sex relationships were only whispered about. It’s so wonderful to see her, some 20 years on, marry her soulmate and be able to proclaim her love for her so openly. The way it ought to be.

Mandy and Katrina are a great example of the lengths that same sex couples are willing to go to in order to have their marriage legally recognised. They live in Wagga, so on the morning of their wedding, they had their hair and makeup done there; then hopped in the car to Canberra for the ceremony; then back again to Wagga for the reception.

And then there’s Stephen Dawson and Dennis Liddelow, who made the journey from Perth.

But, while I am proud that our open-minded city offers same-sex couples a basic right that should be afforded to all, it is a shame that people should have to travel five hours – or across the country – for their wedding day, simply to ensure their actions are recognised in the eyes of the law. It makes me sad that we haven’t yet progressed enough as a society to see that, surely, it’s the ‘person’ that matters…not their colour, gender, or sexual preference.

Annabel Crabb said it brilliantly in the episode of “The Kitchen Cabinet” with Joe Hockey. They were discussing Hockey’s conviction that, “if you’re going to have an optimum outcome for a child, a child should have a mother and a father” (what this belief means for single parents is probably a discussion for another time).

Annabel responded that she thought that, “politics is a half-formed attempt to partially regulate people’s lives in an area which is notoriously resistant to legislation and regulation – who you fall in love with.” It was one of the best and most succinct comments on the issue I’d heard.

I have many gay friends. Some of them are single. Some of them are dating. Some of them are in committed and long term relationships, Some of them have children – happy, healthy, adored children (and I would dare you to pick them out of a line-up if placed side-by-side with kids raised by ‘straights’…) Take away the question of who they prefer to sleep with and these people are no different from any of us.

And, really, aren’t we always teaching our kids ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’? Personally, I would much rather a child be raised by two loving and dedicated women or men in a same-sex relationship, than a neglectful ‘conventional’ couple. At the end of the day, who are we to dictate who should fall in love and what a ‘family’ looks like?

I have my fingers crossed that, some day soon, common sense and human decency will prevail – not just for those couples who want their love for each other to be recognised. But for Australia.

What the HerCanberra team think…

Bronwen Stead, Feature writer

“I am personally disgusted with this article and saddened to think that Canberra has now been associated with this. I can not comprehend why any publication would lead with an article of hate.”

Laura Edwards, Senior journalist

“Like many others, seeing this story made me very uncomfortable. From the cringe-worthy photo to the tacky headline, I instantly dismissed it as click-bait and a massive publicity stunt. I wish everyone else had done the same and didn’t give these two any air-time, which is clearly what they wanted. People have played devil’s advocate and argued that they are entitled to voicing their views and religious beliefs – that they are no different to Brumbies player David Pocock, who said he wouldn’t get married until same-sex marriage became legal. But I argue that unlike David Pocock, the way Nick Jensen has gone about proving his point is completely unnecessary, hurtful to our community and well, pretty sad. Next time, can we vow not to share these posts or give them any extra attention than they deserve? I want Canberra to make national and international headlines for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.”  

Hew Sandison, Lead Video Production Editor

“I can’t make a fair assessment on what life Nick has lead and what personal challenges he has faced. That being said, as a white, heterosexual male it is highly likely he has never experienced the discrimination that too many in our society face every single day. There’s already enough conversation around the flaws in his argument and the hypocrisy that comes with that – there’s nothing I can add that others haven’t already – which reinforces the point that, even if there’s still a need to debate the ethics of marriage equality, Nick is not a voice worth hearing from.”

Nip Wijewickrema, Feature writer

“I’ve lived in Canberra my whole life – and loved every second. Some people are quick to judge the city that many forget, but I truly believe they’re the people that haven’t opened their eyes to the awesome culture, attractions and people we have here. I think Canberra media organisations should be about inspiring and sharing stories. What’s the point of making ‘news’ out of something that’s going to create such hate when in reality, we have thousands of other awesome, positive and inspiring things coming out of Canberrans all around the city. There’s enough hate in the world, why add more?”

Martina Taliano, Feature writer and book lover

“I used to think that marriage was just a piece of paper. That was until I got married. Standing in front of our family and friends and making our vows made for an absolutely fabulous wedding day with memories that I will always cherish. However it was having our family witness those promises to each other AND having the legally binding paperwork that reinforces those vows anytime that things get a bit tough. The commitment of marriage is so much more than ‘just a piece of paper’ or just a big party on your wedding day. It is the solemn vow that is witnessed by the law that you choose your partner on that day, and every day after that. I love being married and value my marriage above all else. I imagine that most people who are married feel the same way. Why wouldn’t I want more people in our community to have the opportunity to have the same privilege that I have enjoyed? We need to celebrate love in all of it’s diversity and not be putting energy towards hate and anger. We are better than that.”

We want to hear from you too… Let us know what you think in our poll below…

Is Nick Jensen's intended divorce an over-reaction/publicity stunt, or do you think he has a point?

  • I believe Nick Jensen has a point about the sanctity of marriage. (41%, 340 Votes)
  • It's clearly a publicity stunt. (36%, 299 Votes)
  • Definitely an over-reaction. (23%, 190 Votes)

Total Voters: 829

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The original article was first published on 11 December 2013. 

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her ‘spare time’, she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She’s done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women.

More about the Author

  • Nik

    It makes no sense because through the ‘religious beliefs’ they are leaning on to make such a point they are also forbidden to divorce or have children out of wedlock. ‘Sanctity of marriage’ also refers to it being until ‘death do us part’… it is hypocritical, idiotic and brings me sadness to see they got a front page with their ridiculousness. Let them divorce, that has no impact on me, just like same sex marriage has no real impact on them.

  • Cecily

    Allowing or disallowing same sex marriage has zero to do with anyone’s religious beliefs. If two men or two women want to marry because they love each other and want to be afforded the same social and legal rights that go with being married, that’s their right. It’s not something to be decided by the lady down the road who’s a catholic or their neighbour who is Hindu. It’s that couples’ decision and theirs alone. To the couple on the front of the publication concerned, worry about how contradictory your judgemental views are to being a Christian. To the publication itself, stop being inflammatory for the sake of it.

  • Ms Jennifer

    I disagree with Laura Edwards, liking the Jensens to David Pocock. David Pocock has (with a friend) set up a charity, is passionate about the environment, advocates standing up and calling people out who make homophobic slurs – as the former Chief of Army David Morrison said “the standard you walk past, is the standard you accept” I don’t see them remotely alike. I don’t believe the Pococks have done this just to make it on the front cover of a publication with out thinking everything through. They do what they do out of passion and conviction!
    David Pocock has debated his position on same sex marriage – Q & A, ABC and why he and his partner Emma have chosen to make a stand They I might add, are not the only ones. The list is growing.

    • Laura Edwards

      Hi Ms Jennifer, that was actually my point, that while David made his point in a valid way Nick made his in a hurtful one. I must not have made that very clear 🙂

      • Ms Jennifer

        Hi Laura, it wasn’t that clear. I m glad we are one the same page, though I do respect people’s right to opinion. I look forward to reading more great thought provoking articles for Her Canberra!
        Maybe one on the current literature being handed out in Catholic Schools against gay marriage?

  • Jane Quick

    I don’t think the federal government should be involved in the marriage business regardless of the couples sexual orientation. The legal side, that is registering yourselves with the appropriate authorities as a couple/ joint entity for taxation, Centrelink and other purposes should be completely separate from the ceremonial commitment of ‘marriage’. And one should have no baring on the other. If certain religions or celebrants want to restrict who they are willing to perform their version of the ‘marriage ceremony’ for then that is their decision but they shouldn’t be allowed to impose their view of the world on others.

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