OPINION: This is the first of a Stuff.co.nz series featuring different New Zealanders and their thoughts on the current marriage equality debate.
The Marriage Amendment Bill aims to amend marriage legislation to ensure gay couples are not treated in "a discriminatory manner".
Today, TVNZ 20/20 current affairs reporter Hannah Ockelford, who tied the knot in a civil union ceremony with Toni Horne, shares her story.
By HANNAH OCKELFORD
In February, I got 'married' to my partner of three and a half years. The ceremony was much more traditional than I'd ever imagined (albeit in a restaurant rather than a church) and we were surrounded by family and friends, all of whom are and continue to be hugely supportive of our choice to be together.
The day was perfect. I remember the fierce pride I felt when I first called Toni my 'wife'.
It's natural for me to say I'm married because it's the cultural construct my life has been founded in. I was brought up by married parents, was a bridesmaid for my sister's wedding and went to my brother's wedding. So why does the law not recognise that they also came to my wedding?
When Louisa Wall's bill got picked from the ballot, a colleague proclaimed surprise that we were even having this debate. But we are. The law considers my relationship with Toni to be outside of the normal parameters of marriage. If someone could tell me just what it is that makes us different, I might be able to comprehend it.
We both work full-time, tolerate taxes, chip away at our mortgage and we have a couple of (extremely cute) cats. We've also tried our hand at a bit of DIY and we rely on the support of our family and friends during good and bad times. Our private life is no one's business, like other people's isn't ours. We're a fairly typical kiwi couple.
For the most part, the legal word doesn't have a significant effect on our day-to-day life. We have the same rights as a married couple, act like a married couple and use whatever identifying terms we like. But, and it's a big but, the law sends a very strong message to us, and our community, when it proclaims we can't get married because we don't fit within the definition. That's the bit about all of this that really bugs me; we're still considered different.
Young people struggling, toying, or simply coming to grips with their own sexuality know they're different. Highlighting that by denying them the ultimate display of love, the right to get married, not only serves to create a further divide, it screams discrimination, shame, even second-class citizen.
For me this isn't about religion, or tradition, it's about basic human dignity.
I've never had to stand up for gay rights; never thought I'd have to because my community had already done the hard yards before I'd even figured out who I was. Despite my discomfort at pronouncing my 'gayness' to the country, I feel like I owe it to the next generation.
A boyfriend (yes, a boyfriend) once told me that we act in fear or we act in love; denying people the right to marry their love is an action based in fear. This is a defining moment for our country. Hopefully, it won't be long before we're looking back wondering what all the fuss was about.
Toni and I can't wait for our 'divorce' party. Only so we can get married - for real.
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