To the Honourable Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:
Same *blanking* sex marriage – 8 August 2017
Oh Australia, how you frustrate me. The government of elected parliamentarians and the media coverage regarding marriage equality keep referring to this bit of legislation as ‘same-sex marriage’.
It is a tactic that is a bit like the American Republicans referring to the Affordable Care Act as ‘Obamacare’; a word designed to be inflammatory and divisive, conjuring up images and feelings that offend nearly everyone for various reasons.
Frankly, I am offended. I am incredulous and insulted that the depth and complexity of my long term monogamous relationship of 24 years is reduced to some biological, morphological binary.
Same-sex marriage. Meh.
Let us call it what it really is: two people of the same gender want the same legal standing as a heterosexual couple.
Yep. They want to have the same legal rights, right out of the chute, as anyone else who is of legal age to be married and is ostensibly a consenting adult.
Let us examine this a bit more in depth
Back in 2000, my female Australian partner of some seven years decided that she wanted to move back home to Melbourne.
We were living in the USA and because of complex family situations mostly to do with her ageing parents, she offered the opportunity to me to move to Australia with her.
Why not? I was elated with the chance to live in another country.
Back then Australia seemed rather enlightened to me.
After all, homosexuality was still illegal in some 26 American states, and Australia allowed ‘de facto’ partnerships, even same-sex ones, the ability to migrate as a family unit.
She was able to sponsor me as her ‘de facto’ partner and as such, I was afforded permanent residency in Australia.
All we had to do was prove, through rigorous documentation and affidavits, a clear, monogamous, committed relationship of five years.
We were able to surmount this hurdle easily.
Being married would have been easier
This did not seem terribly onerous at the time; I do want to point out, however, had we simply been ‘married’, even for a short period of time, the reams of documentation we provided would not have been required by Australian Immigration.
So, for the past 17 or so years we have lived in Australia. We worked, bought a house, paid taxes, contributed to the economy, etc. all as a ‘de facto’ partnership.
I became an Australian citizen. All good.
In 2005 we took the step of creating a self-managed super fund (SMSF) for our retirement. Again, as a ‘de facto’ partnership.
One day shortly after the incorporation of our SMSF, I received a phone call from the Australian Tax Office. It was to inform me that as a ‘de facto’ relationship, we were required to combine our taxable incomes in order to be evaluated for any liability for the Medicare tax levy.
That is, even though we are not ‘married’, we are taxed as though we are.
The same law applies should either of us ever have to draw upon Centrelink (welfare) payments. The same law applies when and if we are ever to draw upon the National Age Pension.
De facto is de facto, regardless of the genders of the partners
De facto status is sufficient if you have no interest in protecting your money, your property, or indeed your life.
It is indeed sufficient to be responsible for the Medicare Levy evaluation, responsible for your partner regarding Centrelink entitlements, and to be evaluated as a ‘couple’ for the Age Pension.
However, legally married status automatically makes you and your spouse eligible for migration to another country, affords you rights and privileges regarding your property and money, and indeed allows you to make life and death decisions should either of you become medically incapacitated.
Without marriage status, one has to have a plethora of additional documentation, wills, living wills, medical powers of attorney, etc., for legal protection.
Married in NY
Recently, my partner and I returned to the USA for a visit to friends and family.
While we were there, we got married in the state of New York. Since it was clear that Australia was dragging its heels regarding the issue of marriage equality, we took the step of getting married in the USA.
Anyone can now get married in the USA.
We took this step because, having worked many years in the USA prior to migrating to Australia, I am entitled to receive my American Social Security benefit payments wherever I live.
Not only that, but my surviving spouse is entitled to my American Social Security benefit should I predecease her. (NB: my American SSI payments will be factored in our ‘de facto status’ eligibility evaluation for the Australian Age Pension.)
She is my spouse according to American law. If Australia had reciprocal laws regarding legal married status, we would not have had to bother with the American marriage certificate.
Not always a couple
So, sometimes we are a ‘couple’ with according financial imposts; sometimes we are not ‘next of kin’, and sometimes we just have to jump through additional legal hoops to situationally protect each other in ways that are automatically afforded to heterosexual couples simply by being legally ‘married’.
This is tiresome. And stupid.
From my point of view, the Australian government saves money by continually evaluating and taxing me and my partner as ‘de facto’. I am okay with this, really.
Any de facto couple shares the same legal conundrum.
But we get none of the good stuff. Like the opportunity for dignity. For legal recognition. To protect and help each other in ways that married heterosexual couples take for granted.
Yes, we are already married, in the USA. And the ‘enlightened lucky country’ is still backwards by comparison.
This is insulting
By the way, it did not take a plebiscite to change the law in the first place, and to reduce legal marriage to a simple biological binary equation.
How insulting for everyone. So, no thank you.
I lived through the bad old days and now I just want to protect my ageing years with my long-term partner. So stop with the ‘same-sex marriage’ label.
Call it what it is, marriage equality protection under the law. For all citizens.