Same Sex Marriage - A Mother's story

in Opinion , Tagged Same Sex marriage, LGBTI, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Marriage, Magda Szubanski.
  • Ruth Lee Martin

    Ruth Lee Martin

    Dr Ruth Lee Martin is Director of Policy and Strategic Projects at the Group of Eight in Canberra. She was previously Head of Musicology at the School of Music, Australian National University.

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Opinion:

Just how damaging was the public debate in the lead up to the same sex marriage vote? For many of us - a 'yes' vote was a no-brainer. We were pleased to be part of the push for long overdue social policy reform.



But many of us have little or no real idea of what it was like to live with a daily public debate, splashed over every media platform, that focused on our sexual identity and questioned our legitimacy. For some of us that was just background noise. For mother of four, Ruth Lee Martin, this 'noise' cut through to the core of her family's love and resilience.



Ruth sat in the audience at the National Press Club (29 Nov 2017) when Yes campaigner Magda Szubanksi delivered a knock-out speech, that ended just moments before the Same Sex Marriage Bill was passed in the Senate. The Press Club erupted when the vote came through. Ruth stood quietly, her eyes shining with tears, and clapped her heart out. Here she shares her story with BroadAgenda. 

And for a more intimate introduction to Ruth's family .. check out this short doco by Anna Lee, University of Canberra.

The same-sex marriage debate has been, for many of us, demarcated by a series of dates: the date the survey started – the day the survey closed – the date the results of the survey were revealed – the date it was debated in the Senate. We’ve been counting down, one hurdle after the other. Last week the bill finally passed through the House of Representatives. I was driving around Parliament House as the announcement came on the radio to loud cheers. It was an amazing moment and I must confess that despite all of the stress and angst of the survey I was nonetheless thrilled.

My family, like others, have been anxiously counting down every one of these dates hoping that Australians would vote to ensure fairness and equality for all.

As the mother of two gay kids and two straight, I’ve always joked about our family being perfectly balanced.

As the mother of two gay kids and two straight, I’ve always joked about our family being perfectly balanced. Now, there is a ‘gayby’ as well – a gorgeous, lively baby with two mummies.

IMG 5964Yes campaigner, Magda Szubanski delivering a 'knock-out' speech at the National Press Club, 29 Nov 2017.

I have always thought of us as a fairly ordinary family, but the survey has highlighted the fact that we’re not so ordinary – we’re different from a lot of people. We just seemed to blend in more before the survey got underway.

Our family took to anxiously reading the latest posts and comments to see if we could get a hint of how things might pan out.

The incredible support we’ve given each other as a family unit in this time has made me think a lot about vulnerable young LGBTQI people just finding their way in life - some going through this without the support of their families. That is just so sad.

As the survey first got underway social media lit up with posts and commentary by YES voters and those for the NO side. Our family took to anxiously reading the latest posts and comments to see if we could get a hint of how things might pan out. It didn’t take long for the comments to turn nasty, threatening and mean.

After a short while the constant barrage of hateful comments began to take its toll

After a short while the constant barrage of hateful comments began to take its toll. My gay kids became anxious and depressed. They also felt resentful of having to put a case to the public and be so openly judged.

After one particularly bad evening on Facebook that ended in death threats towards one of my children, along with some vile comments equating homosexuality with pedophilia and beastiality, I urged them to stay away from social media for awhile.

The one thing that sustained us in this time were the marriage equality rallies. These groups gave us so much support and made us feel we were not alone, but very much part of a community.

rally canberra

"The one thing that sustained us in this time were the marriage equality rallies. These groups gave us so much support and made us feel we were not alone, but very much part of a community." (Image: Australian Marriage Equality)

The first rally in Garema Place, Canberra had a great feeling – the place was packed and the three or four solitary figures, holding signs condemning LGBTQI people to hell, were quietly and peacefully surrounded by rainbow flag bearers.

A morning tea in Queanbeyan followed a couple of weekends later, and I was surprised by the number of tooting car horns that showed their support as we marched along the river in a ragged line waving rainbow flags.

The other thing that helped us get through this difficult time were the religious leaders of all faiths who came forward and stood in solidarity with the LGBTI community. And there were a many of them. For a family for whom religion has been a part of our lives this was very comforting.

I have mixed emotions. The whole process has been exhausting. Magda Szubanski’s speech at the Press Club two weeks ago articulated what many of us have been feeling – we’re conflicted 

So today I have mixed emotions. The whole process has been exhausting. Magda Szubanski’s speech at the Press Club two weeks ago articulated what many of us have been feeling – we’re conflicted – feeling both happy at the outcome, but also disappointed that we had to be put through this. For many gay people this has dredged up vivid memories of a life-time of bullying, humiliation, and intimidation.

Imagine a world where somehow it’s OK to say NO and judge people purely on their sexual orientation, not on who they are as human beings.

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to trigger feelings of revulsion and disgust in others just for being you. Imagine what It’s like to have people wave banners in your face telling you you’re going to burn in hell for living a life that is true to who you are, at your very core. Imagine being denied the right to marry the love of your life and instead thrown a second-best civil union with down-graded protections. Imagine a world where somehow it’s OK to say NO and judge people purely on their sexual orientation, not on who they are as human beings.

shutterstock Untitled design 13

I’ve learnt a lot from my gay kids over the years. I’ve learnt about acceptance and compassion, and I’ve learnt about resilience.

I’ve learnt a lot from my gay kids over the years. I’ve learnt about acceptance and compassion, and I’ve learnt about resilience. As a mother I can relax a bit, and not worry so much about my kids and whether or not they’ll be accepted. I’m over the moon it was a positive ending.

Now for a positive beginning for those LGBTI plus couples who have been waiting so long to get married - 2018 is going to be a good year. My son rang me this evening and told me he’s just proposed to his long term partner. We’ll be having a couple of weddings next year.

In words from Magda’s speech: “In the end, that is what we asked of you - your help. And you gave it.” Thank you, Australia.

fullsizeoutput ceeThe moment of 'waiting', to hear the result of the Senate vote, 29th November 2017
To watch Magda Szubanski's National Press Club address, click here.

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