A former Goondiwindi woman has discovered the power of love and the joy of a community's acceptance

Merry Christmas to a wonderful couple, Jo and Belinda.
Merry Christmas to a wonderful couple, Jo and Belinda.

I met my wife seven years ago.

It was unexpected and surprising. And a case of ‘le coup de foudre’.  

To quote Shakespeare “when I saw you I fell in love and you smiled because you knew it”. 

Her presence in my life and as part of my life has been beyond what words can describe. 

When I met my wife I had my mother in my care at home.

That didn’t phase my wife to be. I was also a tad older.

That didn’t phase her either.

We each had a crazy dog.

Still didn’t phase her.

We just knew that we were meant to be together.

As mum often said, “There is a lid for every pot.”

And ever since hearing that my wife has often said I am her lid.

Upon my mother’s death recently my wife said, “What shall we do? It has always been the three of us.” 

I met Belinda’s parents early in the piece and they embraced me and my love for their only daughter.

We all went away for a holiday, with Belinda’s only brother and his wife and their son, and their beautiful great Aunt and Uncle.

We had family photos done.

Belinda had moved in with Mum and I by that stage.

She made our house a home.

She cared for my mother.

She was right beside me when we made the heart breaking decision based on medical advice to utilise an aged care facility for her ongoing care.

With my brother Paul and I, Belinda took her spot on the daily visits roster.

She knew the shopping list for mum’s favourite things just like us!

She made mum laugh and mum gave her the rounds of the kitchen just like she did with us.

As happens when people fall

In love, Belinda and I married.

In 2011. A beautiful, small little ceremony in the mountains.

We wrote our order of service and a dear friend acted as celebrant for us.

Both our younger brothers were by our sides.

Belinda’s mum and dad were happy. Friends and dear people in our lives celebrating with us.

My young nephew made us a heart of pine cones to stand within as we said our vows and exchanged rings.

I have loved my wife ever since and the life journey we have shared has involved all the stuff of life. We have laughed, we have cried, we cared for mum until her death, and we grieve still the death of my brother, and care for his wife and children together.

We have built our home in the country that we spoke about the very first weekend we went away together in 2010 when we shared our dreams.

Belinda has made this house a home too.

We have shared our home, as we dreamed of doing, with others. Belinda’s parents have lived with us in recent months as we build them the little house behind us.

It was not until today (8/11/17) at around 10am when the Governor General signed the new marriage act that we, as a couple were equal under the law.

Prior to today, since our 2011 ceremony, I have called Belinda my wife.

In law though, she was not my wife. We have been unable to marry by law until today.

Because I too am female.

We have been fortunate for in the care of Mum and other life matters Belinda has been accepted as my wife.

By medical staff, funeral directors and others.

We have not had to show our Power of Attorney or Enduring Guardian documents that we kept with us always. Just in case.

When I had a spell in intensive care Belinda was treated as my wife and consulted about my care when I was unable to respond.

Yesterday as we watched the legislation pass in the House of Representatives together we cried.

We celebrated.

Because it meant we were equal under the law. (Belinda’s mum shed a tear too, just quietly.)

For ourselves it was not about legitimizing our relationship.

We consider it to be as authentic as any others.

In law though, marriage brings equality in key areas of life and death.

We do intend to legally marry. On the same date as our current anniversary.

As we were so assured in our relationship I did not think, apart from the pragmatic technicalities afforded through legislated marriage, the passing of the legislation would impact me emotionally. It did. Significantly. That surprised me.

I found the process of the survey (totally unnecessary) distressing.

That surprised me also. The commentary was distressing.

The impact of that commentary on young people in particular was distressing. We do live in a small rural town.

As we were building for Belinda’s parents at the time we had a left over bit of colorbond that fit exactly our front hanging sign post, which was still empty.

We painted the piece of colorbond in rainbow colours with a YES.

We checked with our builder as it was near his ‘under construction’ sign.

He and his wife loved it.

A few of our town community also sent texts with the same message.

One day I got home from work and the sign had been painted black. We had a beautiful card from our nearest neighbour saying how sorry they were and not to worry… it wasn’t indicative of the town. We had similar texts and conversations of support. We didn’t take down the sign. We painted a red heart on it. Because quite simply love always wins. Our NSW electorate has a 59% Yes result. We also live near Canberra (recognised in the region) which had a 74% Yes result.

The Maranoa (Goondiwindi) electorate had a 44% ‘Yes’ result. We were in Goondiwindi just after the survey. I was catching up worth old friends and showing my wife where I lived during my formative high school years. 

We did not have any concerns as we wandered around town or at the local motel where we stayed. However we were mindful.

The friend I caught up with were so welcoming of my wife and so pleased to see me happy. Especially given the year that has been. I hope this is a good sign for the women and men in Goondiwindi for whom a “Yes” vote may allow them to live an authentic life more freely.   Belinda and I chose to hear the survey results away, by ourselves, in the country on our way to Goondiwindi. 

We cried and laughed and had bubbles when we heard the survey results. 

The friends I caught up with were so welcoming of my wife and so pleased to see me happy. I hope this is a good sign for the women and men in Goondiwindi for whom a “Yes” vote may allow them to live an authentic life more freely.

The emotion surprised me. When Belinda went outside, the beautiful woman who was our host, raced over to Belinda and was simply so excited for us about the survey result. This was unsurprising because when we stay somewhere we try to ensure the accommodation has the rainbow tick or similar through the booking process.

These things will take time. We will still be careful and mindful where we hold hands. And where we hug or embrace when out and about. We are mindful of our safety.

I followed the passing of the legislation through the Senate on Twitter whilst at work. My heart filled and my emotions pounded. That surprised me.

I followed the lengthy passage through the House of Reps similarly. Again the emotion I felt throughout surprised me.

And when I got home yesterday, it was just in time to stand beside my wife as they rang the bells and called the Division. 

And the feeling was extraordinary as we watched all members apart from four walk to one side of the house in support of the legislation.

The legislation brings equity in key matters of life and death. In time, I believe, it will also bring broader understanding and acceptance and ultimately celebration of what is in fact, quite simply, love. No less, no different.