Australia's gay community wants true marriage equality.
Australia's gay community wants true marriage equality. Jos Pedro Coelho

I'm gay but this is why I won't marry my partner

IT'S been a long long time since my partner asked me to marry her.

She didn't make a big fuss. There was no bended knee. No theatrics. No ring.

She just murmured "I'd like to marry you," before she fell asleep late one night.

It was such an unremarkable moment that I don't even remember the date.

Back then we were long-distance lovers, having met while I was in Brisbane on holidays.

I was a journalist working and living in country Victoria and she was a sales rep based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Building up the frequent flyer points, we saw each other about once a month and had to make do with text messages and phone calls to bridge the void while we were apart.

Eventually I scored a job five hours away from her home here in Queensland and we revelled in the fact that we could spend long lazy weekends together.

She must have made the marriage comment on a Saturday evening because the enormity of it hit me some 24 hours later while I was making my usual Sunday night drive to Gladstone.

About halfway there, I stopped to fuel myself and my car, taking the opportunity to reflect on her words.

I tried texting her a romantic response but deleted it because I didn't want to be over the top or to sound needy or desperate.

Eventually I called her, said "Yes" and that was that.

We haven't really discussed marriage since - until it's a legal option, what is there talk about?

I've told maybe two people and I suspect my partner hasn't told anyone because that's not her way.

Here we are four years later and Australia is on the cusp of a momentous moment in the lives of people like my partner and myself.

At 10am on Wednesday, November 15, we will know whether or not legal marriage is a possibility for us.

The past two months have seen our country at its best and its worst.

The gay community and our loved ones and supporters have been through an absolutely torrid time as we've endured the vilest of homophobia.

It has truly been heart-breaking, but there have been moments of absolute joy as our friends, families, colleagues, workplaces, neighbours and strangers have backed us in a fight that was never about "radical gay sex education in schools" or the end of freedom of speech.

A resounding "Yes" will be a beautiful welcome salve for our wounded souls and a "No" will knock our battle for equality back for many years to come.

I believe the Australian Bureau of Statistics announcement will go our way, and when it does it will come with a heavy sense of foreboding of things to come.

We will face wave upon wave of negativity and hate as our government considers two options - allowing gay people true equality by simply making one small change to the marriage act or foisting upon us illogical laws that will constantly remind myself, my partner and other gay people that we are lesser humans compared to straight Aussies.

Most polls show that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will soon be charged with amending the marriage act to say: "Marriage means the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

Before he does this, he will be pressured into accepting legislation allowing anyone who disapproves of gay people to discriminate against them.

There are a number of proposed bills doing the rounds and they are all focused on so-called "religious protections".

To the casual observer these proposals are designed to uphold Christian ethics, morals and beliefs.

But take a close look and you'll soon realise these documents, at their heart, define marriage equality as a threat to any Australian who does not fall on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex or transgender spectrum.

Senator Bill Smith's proposal is the best of a bad lot - and I say that through gritted teeth.

His proposals include:

. Allowing registered civil celebrants to become "religious marriage celebrants" so they can automatically opt out of officiating at gay weddings;

. Allowing religious bodies to refuse service to anyone who doesn't share their values (this is already covered in the Sex Discrimination Act but its addition here broadens the discrimination to couples who are divorcees or inter-racial);

. Allowing wedding service providers such as bakers and florists to say no to same-sex couples on the grounds of the business being connected to a religious organisation.

. Allowing government employees performing "legal duties" as part of their job to refuse to do tasks they don't agree with (for example processing a gay couple's marriage certificate);

The worst of the proposed legislation is what Senator James Paterson has put forward.

If parliament passes it, this bill would automatically override state or territory anti-discrimination laws meaning commercial businesses and charities can refuse service in the name of "conscientious objection".

It also "protects freedom of speech" so people can "discuss their views of gay marriage" without consequence. In other words, they will be legally allowed to spew homophobic rhetoric at whoever they choose and not be held to account.

Senator Paterson also wants government employees to refuse to work on anything gay related.

And he says parents should be allowed to remove their children from any classes that "conflict with their values".

This could easily extend to not allowing gay teachers to teach their kids or to not have them sit in a room with a child who might be gay or transgender.

If we wouldn't allow our government to pass laws that give "conscientious objectors" the right to refuse service to people based on their race, their single parent status, their married/divorced status, their age or their income levels, then we should oppose any legislation that does this to any group of people.

If Australia has voted yes to marriage equality, every queer person in this country needs to ask: "Do we compromise on full equality for the sake of getting a marriage certificate or do we hold out a few years for the ALP to gain power and introduce legislation (as promised) that does not protect religious privilege and does not legitimise homophobia and bigotry?".

It's a tough choice, particularly given the trauma we've experienced over the past few months in the name of "democracy".

When the survey started I was chuffed there was a chance I could take my partner up on her marriage proposal.

What a great way to celebrate the brave moment when most Australians embraced people like us.

But now that I've considered the ramifications of the mooted legislation, I am getting very cold feet.

I imagine what it will be like to walk into a baker, florist, wedding planner or marriage celebrant's office to buy their products only to be told my relationship is not worthy of their service.

Or to see a "No gays allowed" sign in their windows.

Like anyone who marries, I want the moment to be perfect and unforgettable for all the right reasons.

If legalising our relationship is based on any of the bills before parliament today, I will not wed my partner.

I don't want our relationship to be a little bit equal. 

I want it to be fully equal and I am not prepared to compromise on that.

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence and other issues.

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