Marriage Equality – Will the Law Catch Up?

PG11 Dani and NadineWhile the wait for marriage equality continues, LGBTIQ couples are moving forward with celebrating their relationships. Whether it be through heading overseas for a wedding, taking advantage of dual citizenship or just getting on with it and holding a ceremony.

When New Zealand approved marriage equality in 2013 almost a third of the people taking vows in the first few months were from overseas. When couples were granted the ability to convert established civil unions from the United Kingdom to marriage status, British Consulates in Australia had couples queuing up to register. For many more couples the focus is on simply making a commitment before friends and family.

For Nadine and Dani Wright Toussaint (pictured above) the reason for having a wedding was pretty clear. Before starting a family they wanted to mark a significant stage in their relationship and share it with friends and family. In May 2013 the couple gathered their friends and family for a ceremony to celebrate their relationship.

“We knew we wanted to start having kids.” Dani said, “We’d been domestic partners and had legal standing as a de facto couple for eight years already, but if we were going to have a kid we wanted that extra evidence just in case anything ever happened, and even though it’s not a legal document, it does give you more stead.”

Nadine adds. “It was important to us that our kids would know that our relationship was something that was real and recognised.  That was really important to us at the time, and it still is. We want them to grow up and know that we are really committed to each other and that our community in terms of our friends and family were supportive of that.”

“Plus it’s an opportunity to celebrate and revel in our long standing love and relationship with people that we love. Plus it’s important to have that marker for the start of the story of our family.” Dani said.

The couple said the reason for having a ceremony was very personal, for them it wasn’t about activism and politics but about celebrating their commitment.

“I’ve always said that I don’t actually believe in the institution of marriage,” Dani
said, “but that is different from wanting to assert and celebrate our relationship and the future of our family.”

The ceremony included Dr Seuss themed handwritten invitations and a ceremony in a beautiful park. The couple chose not to have any entrances or ‘giving away’ moments and read their own personal vows. A close friend, who is
a wedding celebrant, guided the ceremony. Afterwards they had a reception in a quaint laneway between some friend’s houses.

“We really wanted our friends and family to be involved and in the lead up to the wedding we had monthly busy-bees to make invitations and decorations.” Nadine explained. “It was really lovely.”

A little over a year later the couple welcomed their first child.

For Bridget and Heather Rhodes-Moore the journey to marriage has had many stages. The British couple, who have been together since 1999, first celebrated a civil Partnership in the United Kingdom in 2007.

“We celebrated our Civil Partnership in Oxfordshire, UK in front of family and close friends at our local Registry Office in June 2007 followed by a traditional reception with 100 guests.” Bridget shared.

Recently the couple converted their civil partnership to a marriage at the British Consulate. The couple said it was important to them to make the upgrade.

“It means we are equal to heterosexual couples.  Our commitment to each other no longer feels second class. Everyone who wished to enter into a legally binding commitment can have the same. You often have to explain what a Civil Partnership means, you don’t need to do this with a marriage.” Bridget said.

Celebrant Joanne Armstrong from Wild Heart Celebrations has noticed a growing number of same sex couples moving forward with ceremonies.

“People are having a ceremonies that are just the same weddings, they don’t want to reminded that theirs is not the real thing, because to them it is.” Armstrong said.

The popular celebrant also noted that same sex couples are becoming increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of change and frustrated when they encounter marriage celebrants who don’t treat them ethically, despite a code of conduct being in place for celebrants.

Armstrong shares that her experience is that the ceremonies same sex couples request are no different to everyone else’s.

“If anything, I think there’s a little more time put in to thinking about the significance of marriage. People want tradition, while also wanting to be informal and relaxed and fun, every couple is different.”

Another significant change Armstrong is seeing is heterosexual couples adding a comment after the monetum, the legal wording describing that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Armstrong said she wished that all celebrants would offer their clients this option.

“People increasingly add a comment saying that they hope that this law changes soon”, because they want to be inclusive to their gay friends at the ceremony.

Graeme Watson, image supplied

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