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Dec 13, 2011

Bolt: I want marriage equality for all

To point out the blindingly obvious, many of us regardless of sexuality want to get married; we want the ceremony that is such a significant marker in life’s journey, writes Stephanie Bolt, sister of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt.

As part of our 15th birthday celebrations, we’ve trawled through the archives to bring you some of the best, weirdest and most salacious articles published on Crikey since our launch on February 14, 2000.

*This article was originally published on December 13, 2011.

Last Monday, my brother Andrew Bolt published a column presenting his views in opposition to same-sex marriage. I belatedly attempted to post a contribution to the lively blog debate. When it wasn’t published, I knew I didn’t want to leave it there — being a lesbian in a committed relationship I want to participate in the conversation happening across the country, tell my story and, in doing so, hopefully make even the smallest difference to the long-running campaign for marriage equality.

As my family will recall, I came out when I was 21 years old. Like many in the GLBTI community, I was awash with the relief and joy of recognising and expressing such a fundamental part of who I was. Again, like many, I experienced much uncertainty about my value to the community and the fear of rejection.

For the most part though, I feel fortunate to have received respect and love from people important to me as I made those first tentative steps out of the closet. That, of course, is not everyone’s experience. Rejection by parents, siblings and peer groups is not altogether uncommon and low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide can be the terrible result.

Even with my good fortune, I have felt the effects of ignorance, fear and hate by others: fearing for my life, I was chased down city streets one night by a group of drunk teenagers for holding hands with my girlfriend; I have been verbally abused and taunted about my sexuality when playing sport; and I have felt on social and work occasions the discomfort or disapproval of others upon hearing the word “girlfriend” or “she” in relation to my partner.

Some gays and lesbians view their relationships as equal to those of straight people. But I know of others who would admit to feeling “lesser” or, even if they don’t, are fed up with receiving negative physical, verbal or other signals from the world around them.

Offering civil unions seems a reasonable compromise from the position of any straight person who has not ever had to question for a single moment others’ acceptance of their relationship or their right to choose to marry the person they love. Offering civil unions sends a signal that, to me, says I am lesser.

I’m then told that civil unions are in a legal sense similar to marriage and, therefore, why should it not be embraced by same-sex couples? If it’s such a palatable alternative it’s then fair to ask why it’s not embraced by many more heterosexual couples?

To point out the blindingly obvious, many of us regardless of sexuality want to get married; we want the ceremony that is such a significant marker in life’s journey. There may be little that legally separates the two, but socially and culturally there’s a chasm.

Marriage is touted as one of our most enduring traditions. Traditions are organic; their foundations are laid in the past but they grow and evolve over time. Granting me and my partner the right to marry — to have our loving and committed relationship recognised in law and by the community — doesn’t erode that tradition; it builds upon it.

My partner and I celebrate two anniversaries. We first held a “commitment ceremony” at home witnessed by many of our family and friends on a stormy Adelaide spring day. It was the day I told the world I would love my partner forever. It was the best day of my life.

However, it wasn’t until we married in the simplest of ceremonies one month later in Canada that I sensed a legitimacy and belonging I wasn’t expecting to feel. I think that’s because I have built a layer of protection against judgment and negativity for many years around my s-xuality, my relationship and, now, my young son.

It may seem naive, but having that certificate in my hand made me untouchable, secure, normal, and for those wonderful few weeks, I could drop the shield. It’s disappointing beyond measure that my brother and others who share his views don’t wish that for me and everyone else like me.

I want marriage equality. At the very least, I wish for a rational and respectful debate.

I trust that more thoughtful consideration of this issue will prevail and, whether under this government or another in the future, my wife and I will finally see our relationship legitimised.

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72 thoughts on “Bolt: I want marriage equality for all

  1. Chris Graham

    Fantastic piece Stephanie. You’re proof positive that the problem with the Bolts is not one of genetics.

  2. SusieQ

    Thanks Stephanie.
    How many more of these intelligent articles are we going to have to read before people get it??

  3. David Hand

    I’ve been married twice. The first time was in 1978 in a Baptist Church with all the prayers and blessings etc traditionally bestowed by that corner of the Christian faith on its adherents. The second time was in 2003 on the shore of Pittwater where there were no religeous pomp and ceremony at all.

    I think that my second marriage constitutes a civil union but I would like someone with expertise on the issue to comment. I am firmly in favour of same sex civil marriage and as seems necessary, a change to the marriage act to enable this to occur. It’s a question of discrimination from my point of view.

  4. Sophie Pointer

    Fantastic article and amazing that two people who share the same genes have totally different lives!

    My favorite bit within the article was this sentence:

    “There may be little that legally separates the two, but socially and culturally there’s a chasm”.

    It eloquently captures the heart of the issue. Thank you!

  5. Stickey

    Another of the long awaited Australian Democrats policies is succeeding.

  6. Oscar Jones

    I’m white, middle class and heterosexual. The world is my oyster.

    For anyone else who is not in that narrow range barriers are thrown up and it is a disgrace. Every person is entitled to what others receive. They don’t always get it and we should be striving for that equality in every single thing as an ideal.

    Andrew draws a very long bow when he involves Dr. Philip Nitschke in his argument.

  7. John

    Well said, Stephanie.
    Your story is powerful.
    I hope your brother reflects on it and changes his mind.
    My brother had no reservations about my de facto husband being his brother-in-law.
    Unfortunately, my de facto husband’s sister has never accepted me as her brother-in-law.

  8. Jim Reiher

    When I saw that “Bolt” was writing for Crikey, I nearly had a heart attack. But then … it was Mr Bolt’s sister! And what a great piece. I hope it gets more widely circulated. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. discus

    Bob Katter’s brother and now Andrew Bolt’s sister. Nice work and thank you for letting us into your world.

  10. Mike Flanagan

    A poignanat and moving piece, dripping with honesty Stephanie. As an aged male hetero I have sympathy with your aspirations.
    However there is one point that hetero’s have had that you ignore or overlook and that is the non maried partners that have only in recent years gained some legal recognition for themselves and their off spring.

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