Marriage equality is a topic that’s on everyone’s lips at the moment, and in the upcoming postal plebiscite, Australians will have the opportunity to vote for or against same-sex marriage. If the majority respond with ‘yes’, a free vote will be held in parliament. Marriage equality supporters have widely criticised the postal survey, saying that it is a waste of resources, that it will not accurately represent the views of young voters, and that it gives airtime to views that are hurtful to LGBTIQ Australians in same-sex relationships as well as their families.
In this piece local couple Megan Carrigy and Sal Browning tell us what legalising same-sex marriage means to them and why it is a necessary step for our country. Megan and Sal are deeply loving long-term partners, who have a son, Leo, 2.5 years old. The pair recently celebrated their tenth anniversary.
Why is marriage equality so important?
‘It is a basic human right to love who you want to love and be able to celebrate that commitment legally with your partner,’ says Sal. ‘It’s important that people feel validated and not judged or seen as less because of their choice of partner.’
Of her own situation, Sal says: ‘That I am not allowed by law to marry the person I love is offensive, that I don’t have the same right as a heterosexual person is offensive, that I receive mail saying that children are better off with a mum and a dad is offensive. No one should have the right to deny same-sex couples what heterosexual couples take for granted. I want to see an end to discrimination. I want my son to see that all people are treated equally.’
Megan says: ‘Australia needs to catch up with the rest of the world. Sal and I have been committed to each other for a long time now. There are some areas where marriage matters, and we want the same legal recognition that married heterosexual couples have. If Australia does not legalise same-sex marriage, Sal and I will get married in the British Consulate next year.’ (Megan holds dual citizenship with Britain. A few years ago she started looking into the possibility of them getting married through the British Consulate here in Sydney.) ‘But of course not everyone has this opportunity, and getting married this way still won’t mean my rights are recognised in my own country.’
What has your experience as a rainbow family has been like to date?
‘Fantastic!’ says Sal. ‘To be honest I don’t even really think of us as a rainbow family; our experience is probably the same as every other straight couple raising a 2.5 year old. The only time I feel different, sad and judged is when I hear on the radio or read in the paper that I am not worthy of raising a child and that my child will have less because he has two mums.’
Image: Sal Browning with son Leo
It’s similar for Megan. ‘We’ve both really loved having Leo and have enjoyed the last two and half years,’ she says. ‘I think like any family we’ve found it challenging too. We’re always busy, always tired … To date we’ve had very positive experiences in terms of how we’ve been treated as a family. I’ve certainly felt supported by the people around me and in my community. I hope that continues.
‘I do worry for Leo as he gets older,’ Megan continues. ‘It’s important to me that he feels respected and safe in a school environment. I believe that marriage equality will help to marginalise the views of those who might say that this family isn’t a real family. It will set the bar for what is an acceptable way to treat rainbow families.
‘For now, I’m grateful that Leo isn’t old enough to understand the current debate, and hear some of the voices that are being unleashed publicly. We’re lucky our son is so young, but there are so many families going through this right now with older kids who hear and understand those harmful messages.’
Image: Megan Carrigy with son Leo
How are you feeling about the upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage?
‘I’ve been heartened that so many people from all walks of life have actively come out in support of marriage equality,’ says Megan. ‘It’s critical that people who support the issue speak up and talk to those around them and in their community about it and why they are voting yes.’
Sal says: ‘Although I do not support the idea of a postal survey – a free vote in parliament makes more sense, would have cost less and stopped a lot of the hate campaigns going around – I still hope that people vote yes for marriage equality. Let’s puts this baby to bed once and for all!’
You can learn more about marriage equality and access campaign resources here:
Cover image: Sal, Leo and Megan