Light at the end of the tun­nel: mar­riage dream looms large

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - RICK MOR­TON SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS WRITER

When the final re­sult in the tense, months-long, same-sex­mar­riage postal sur­vey is handed down this morn­ing, Bris­bane ra­di­a­tion ther­a­pist Kate Wil­der­muth will be free of nerves and asleep un­der a gen­eral anaes­thetic.

It wasn’t part of the plan but, more than three months af­ter she said “yes” to a mar­riage pro­posal from her lawyer part­ner Kris­ten Watt, Ms Wil­der­muth is mak­ing her first foray into IVF as the pair plan on hav­ing chil­dren to­gether.

“It’s the weird­est thing, just an­other twist of fate,” Ms Wil­der­muth said.

The cou­ple have been to­gether for more than two years af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced by a friend. They be­gan talk­ing about mar­riage when Ms Watt de­cided to out-com­pete her part­ner on the pro­posal.

“Be­ing the com­pet­i­tive per­son I am, I de­cided to get in first and pro­pose in July, mostly be­cause Kate is an in­cred­i­bly thought­ful per­son and does ev­ery­thing for ev­ery­one else so I wanted to sur­prise her,” Ms Watt said. “She cried, I cried — mostly I cried.”

Al­though the search for equal­ity had al­ways mat­tered to them — Ms Watt said the cou­ple had been forced to “come out daily” to oth­ers — the pair made a de­ci­sion to get on with things, hop­ing the Mar­riage Act would be changed through par­lia­ment.

It wasn’t. Just weeks af­ter

they be­came en­gaged, the vol­un­tary postal sur­vey was an­nounced as the poor cousin to a manda­tory plebiscite, which had stalled in the par­lia­ment.

“It wasn’t re­ally un­til the sur­vey was an­nounced that it hit us, you know, that we re­alised we’d have to do some­thing about it,” Ms Watt said.

“Be­cause we had each other, Kate and I were more will­ing to put our­selves out there in terms of be­ing quite vo­cal in the mar­riage-equal­ity space and try­ing to use our own story to per­son­alise the is­sue.

“We learned that it is con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple that re­ally changed minds about things so we took every op­por­tu­nity we could to have our say and have those re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tions with ev­ery­body.”

The cou­ple started a “dear neigh­bour” cam­paign and wrote to peo­ple about their story, en­cour­ag­ing them to get in touch if they in­tended on vot­ing No. Hap­pily, for them, it worked. “We had a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who said they were vot­ing No but were happy to talk about it,” Ms Watt said. “In the end, they said: ‘Thanks for hav­ing a chat. I’m go­ing to vote Yes now. I just never un­der­stood why it is im­por­tant’.”

While Ms Wil­der­muth wants to be able to say “this is my wife, Kris­ten” with full le­gal back­ing, there is more at stake. Ms Watt has spent much of this week in hos­pi­tal.

“It does make you worry, where if you need your part­ner to make de­ci­sions on your health or to speak on your be­half they re­ally need to have the same le­gal stand­ing that a mar­ried cou­ple would have,” Ms Watt said.

“I want to know if I am un­well that Kate is my per­son, she makes the de­ci­sion.”

The cou­ple thought about whether it would be fair to bring chil­dren into a world in which they would be dis­crim­i­nated against but ul­ti­mately de­cided things would change.

If a ma­jor­ity votes Yes, there will be nig­gles to iron out in the pro­posed bills be­fore any­thing be­comes law but Ms Watt hopes com­mon sense will pre­vail.

“This postal sur­vey felt like all of those fears we once had when we were in high school and deal­ing with sex­u­al­ity have been reignited and you’re back in the class­room and the teacher is the Prime Min­is­ter who oc­ca­sion­ally claps along,” Ms Watt said. “It has been a re­ally in­ter­est­ing part of his­tory and I hope this is the end of it and we get it done.”

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