Denman Gutter Masthead
SuzanneOrr_feature

It’s not just a survey, it’s personal

Suzanne Orr

When it comes to my personal life I value privacy.

But there are times when even people who quietly go about their day, just getting on with loving the person they love need to speak up.

Within the context of a national vote on whether the rights allowable to most Australians can be extended to me, it’s time to share my story.

I am a woman in a relationship with another woman.

In the course of my day to day activities, I do not feel the need to shout this from the hilltops or lead with it in every introduction. I am more than happy to go about my business just being me and contributing to my community to the best of my abilities. In the course of an average day most people don’t even realise my partner is a woman. I put it down to the fact that within a consenting adult relationship, who I love just really isn’t relevant to whether I can queue properly at the supermarket, remember to pay my bills by their due date, or stick to the speed limit when driving.

And that kind of goes to the heart of the issue. I am subject to every law in this country that every other person is subject to. But there is one law that specifically excludes me – the Marriage Law.

It’s a law that wasn’t always discriminatory but in 2004 when – without a national survey – our Federal Parliament defined that marriage means the union of a man and a woman that the law was made discriminatory.

Sure, measures have been put in place to give some rights to LGBTIQ people. But these measures don’t give LGBTIQ people the same rights as married couples. In a defacto relationship the onus is still on the couple to prove they are a couple. If you are married your relationship under the law is proven without question.

By not going that extra step and allowing me and other LGBTIQ people the right to marry it says to all of us – you are not the same as every other Australian. By changing the marriage law in 2004 to purposely exclude us it says to all of us – we don’t want you to be the same as every other Australian.

Put simply being almost equal is not the same as being equal.

Instead of our parliament standing up for the equality of all Australians we have to have a public debate on my and other LGBTIQ people’s right to be equal.

To be honest it is and has been a confronting experience.

I was outdoor knocking with the Yes Campaign. One person said to me they were voting no. I said “no worries”, I wasn’t there to persuade him otherwise we were just out thanking people who were voting yes and reminding people to return their surveys.

The thing is he wouldn’t let me leave his doorstep. Every time I went to say goodbye and leave he would step further outside his doorway and make another justification for his position.

I wasn’t asking him to justify his position, in fact, I had made it very clear he didn’t need to but he kept trying to justify to me why he was voting no. I got the impression he wanted me to say it was ok and that it was perfectly fine for having the view he had. I couldn’t tell him that but I did say the only thing I felt I could say – “can we respectfully agree to disagree and just leave it at that?”.

I have done my fair share of door knocking and have been on the receiving end of many views – believe me people don’t hold back – and I have learnt not to let it get to me.

But this time was different. The whole time I was standing there listening to this man – who was perfectly polite – tell me he was sorry but he didn’t agree with marriage equality. At this point, I could feel my chest sinking in on itself.

I don’t think he had any idea I was personally affected by his view nor did he realise how crushing it was for me to hear what he had to say.

It’s one thing to see comments from anonymous trolls or headlines for comment pieces in the newspaper – those you can to an extent keep at a distance. But in this instance, it was a real person who lived right around the corner from me, a person who could easily be a friend of my parents, or a teacher at the school, or a colleague I have worked with at some point in my career.

It was personal much like this whole debate which is not a hypothetical discussion or one step removed – it affects us all deeply.

As hard as it was to hear the few people that day who told me they would be voting no, their words were tempered by all the people who told me they had voted or would be voting yes.

To everyone who has voted yes – thank you.

To everyone who will be voting yes but haven’t posted their ballot yet – please post it today. Every vote will count and we need your support.

user

Suzanne Orr

Suzanne Orr is a Member for Yerrabi in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Suzanne was born in Canberra and grew up in Giralang. While growing up Suzanne's family fostered more than 200 children. The experience made her aware from a young age that government has a big role in helping when people need extra support. She worked in the hospitality and tourism industries. After completing a master's degree she began a career as an urban planner and also worked for the Australian Public Service before entering the Legislative Assembly in 2016. More about the Author

Denman Gutter Leaderboard