Elcid Betancourt

elcid-thumbMy partner and I met in New York City, and instantly fell in love. I am American and he is Australian and so when we decided to live together, we moved to Australia as it is a much more tolerant society and same-sex partnership visas exist. We have made amazing friends here in Australia and have found a community of support that is positively flabbergasting. Neither of us has the support from our families and so the support we receive from our community of friends here in Australia is instrumental. I can personally attest to the fact that many people in the LGBTI community face a lifetime exiled from their families, and so we create our own families as we go. This is why David and I couldn’t be happier to have the community we have here in Australia.

We have been together now for over 3 and a half years and on the 2nd of June 2011, David proposed to me on our holiday in Japan. Of course I said yes, with many tears and hugs and kisses. It was so far the best day of our lives together. We look forward to being able to get married one day and share our commitment to each other with our amazing friends, our family, here in Australia.

Our view of marriage, the civil institution governed by the secular laws of Australia, is that it should be open to all loving couples who have chosen to have a shared life together. This is not a religious thing but simply a secular legal institution separate to religious marriages. To be recognised in Australia as equal enough to be allowed to marry is incredibly important, not only to secure equal rights for all Australians and their partners, but also for future generations of children who look to the adults of the time to define for them what and who are equal.

As a couple, we have been invited to all of our friends’ weddings and each time there is definitely a sense that we would also like to share our own marriage with our friends. We are going to do it anyway, because in actuality, no one can stop us from celebrating with all those that love us! But it would be nice to have a certificate at the end of it that says the government understands that we are a couple and have chosen to legally bind ourselves together. That recognition is something that is important to secure equality for all. Separate but “equal” is inherently unequal. If we truly aspire to be a nation that gives everyone a fair go, we should move to ensure that we all have that option if we so chose it.

To claim that a de-facto partnership is the same as a marriage is a lie, because if that were the case then many opposite-sex attracted couples would indeed be opting instead for de-facto partnerships. That is not the case. Equality in marriage rights matters more to the LGBTI community, than it does to those who oppose us. Not allowing us to get married is not going to stop me calling David my husband, and it is not going to stop us from adopting and it is not going to stop us from enjoying almost ALL of the legal benefits given to opposite-sex attracted couples. Denying us the label of “marriage” only goes to remind us every day that we are not considered as equals in the eyes of the government.

Marriage matters because it is an institution recognised overseas, it is an institution that we have grown up aspiring to be a part of, and it is the appropriate label to designate loving relationships that are between two people for life. To call our relationships anything else is simply bigotry, because there is no reason to deny a civil secular institution from a section of the population based on religious beliefs that are not shared by all. We are not Christian so why should we be subjected to the ideas and principles of Christianity that have no bearing on how we live our lives? As far as we are concerned, the Parliament of Australia has a duty to ensure that laws apply equally to all individuals in this country regardless of religion or creed. We all pay taxes, we all contribute to Medicare, we all contribute to this economy and this society and culture and we should all be considered equal under the law.

The definition of what a marriage is has changed over the years. Form being a contract between families for the exchange of chattels, in a time when daughters were considered goods to be traded, to being an institution that was only between people of the same race, marriage can now evolve to include same-sex couples. When the laws of the land no longer reflect the reality of the community, they are out of date. David and I will get married, he will be my husband and I will be his, and we will exchange rings and vows. The fact that the law has no way of recognising such a union only goes to show the holes in it. We should mend those holes as soon as possible.

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