Although I am attracted to men I was married to a woman for 27 years. This means I come to the marriage equality debate with a different perspective.
There are many men like me. They marry in the hope of curing their same-sex attraction, or to fit in with their family’s expectations.
But the reality is that sexual orientation for many people, including me, is unchangeable. Not living as the person who we really are impacts on our emotional and physical health. Inevitably, there comes a time when we have to recognise who we are and deal with that.
Marriages between gay men and straight women almost always end in separation and divorce. For the couple and for their children, the emotional, financial and social costs are great.
The dilemma is that marriage continues to play an important role in our society. I, like many people, aspire to form a life-long exclusive union with another person and to enjoy the benefits of marriage.
But under Australian law if you want to marry you have either have to be attracted to someone of the opposite sex, or pretend to be.
Allowing gay people to marry someone they are actually attracted to would see fewer couples in relationships that are destined to fail because the sexual orientations of the partners is incompatible.
Some people are against same-sex marriage because they object to gay couples raising children. But there is no mention of children in the Marriage Act.
While most people may marry in the expectation of having children, not everyone shares that expectation. My ex-wife remarried knowing that she could no longer have children.
As long as heterosexual people are allowed to marry if they can’t or don’t want to have children it is a double standard not to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Some people who are against same-sex marriage think the rights same-sex couples have as de factos should be sufficient. But de facto relationships are not equal socially or legally.
If you are married you can respond to anyone who challenges your legal rights by producing your certificate. If you’re in a de facto relationship you have no way to easily prove your status. Instead, bureaucrats or courts can decide for you.
Marriage provides us with a universal language of love, commitment and family. Everyone knows the meaning of ‘‘fiance’’, ‘‘wedding’’, ‘‘father-in-law’’, ‘‘daughter-in-law’’ and so on.
I was once part of this institution and I still value it greatly. But I am now excluded from it simply because I am more honest about who I am.
I’m in a good position to understand how much it hurts to be told you’re not a fit person to marry because of who you’re attracted to.
It is time that our governments, state and federal, took the step of allowing same-sex marriage. We all deserve equal treatment before the law.
Malcolm McPherson is the NSW Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality, which is urging politicians to freely debate and approve a bill for marriage equality ahead of September’s federal election.