“I have no powers legally as a next of kin”: Life as a same-sex family in Australia

By Nicole Lord

I’ve been with my partner for over 19 years. We have never broken up — not even for a day.

We have four fantastic kids together, and we share a cat; a dog; a house; a car; a last name; and bills.

As a family, we play Uno and read stories before bed. We spend weekends running around visiting friends and family and doing sports. We march in protest rallies for equality, refugee and Aboriginal rights and the environment. We do our shopping with the kids hanging off the trolley as we navigate the aisles. We have shared laughs and joy at weddings, and tears and heavy hearts at funerals together.

We eat too much, and laugh so hard.

Do you get the picture?

We are a family. Just like all the other families you know. Except that because my partner Bethia is a woman and so am I, there are obstacles we face each day that remind us that – despite having spent nearly half our lives together – our family is not considered as “valid” as others’ in the eyes of the Australian government.

For example, I technically can’t approve excursions for some of our kids.

I have to keep signing documents every few years to make my superannuation nomination binding.

I feel vulnerable nearly every day when I meet new people in the workplace and have to reveal something about myself and feel apprehensive that they may judge me unfavourably.

If something terrible happens to Bethia or some of our kids, I have no powers legally as a next of kin. I may not be able to authorise that life saving operation.

And in a worst-case scenario, we can’t automatically be listed on each other’s death certificates or make those kinds of arrangements.

While debate about whether same-sex marriage should be legalised rages on, this process of the whole country voting to validate my relationship is nothing short of traumatising for my family.

Bethia and I want to provide a life for our children free from hate and discrimination. We want our kids to know their family is nothing out of the ordinary – so their friends at school continue to not even think twice about it. We also want for them to be able to love whoever they want when they grow up.

What marriage equality will achieve is, in some ways, simple— Bethia and I, and millions of other loving couples around the country, will be able to attend the registry office and get that slip of paper that allows them to circumvent the damaging, oppressive everyday examples of discrimination I’ve just listed.

But in other ways, legalising same-sex marriage will have far-reaching, meaningful impact:

It will send a message of acceptance to that young person sitting at home tonight thinking about ending their life because they think their mum or dad will never accept them being gay.

It will help build a movement of support for that mum or dad at home who is too embarrassed or frightened to reach out for help as they don’t understand their child who is thinking they don’t belong in their body.

It will stand in solidarity with that little girl who just likes to wear jeans and her hair short but she keeps being told to wear dresses, or the kid that got picked on in the playground today for ‘acting gay’.

It will send a clear message of love, acceptance and empathy to that couple that was bashed as they left the club and wanted to walk home holding hands.

So in the postal survey on same-sex marriage, I hope you’ll vote yes for all of these people.

Vote yes for loving families like mine. And please encourage any person who is indifferent – or who supports marriage equality, but thinks their vote won’t make a difference because ‘same-sex marriage is inevitable, anyway’ – to vote, too. (Indifference can be a dangerous: thing: Just look at the USA electing Donald Trump!)

Vote yes because in Australia in 2017, no person should be made to feel like a second-class citizen.

To participate in the postal vote, you need to be correctly enrolled by 24 August 2017. Enrol here.

Image: Nicole (left) with her family. Original photo: Supplied. Background design: Grace Jennings-Edquist