Sep 22

For seven days, our niece Abbey sent letters to the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, requesting that he change the law on marriage to allow Michael and me to get married to each other.

Here are her letters:

Today she received a response! She called me straight away to tell me that she had some good news and some sad news.

The good news was the PM had written back to her, the sad news was that he wasn’t going to change anything.

We talked about the sad news and I said that I didn’t think it was all that sad.  We already knew that he probably wouldn’t change his mind, but I encouraged Abbey to think about the impact she’s had.  Her friends are talking about it, she managed to reach hundreds of people by writing her letters and then some other people also wrote letters. It was good for her to hear about the influence that her efforts had, and we talked about how important it is that people just like her let people just like Abbott know what she’s thinking.  It’s how we bring about change.

Here’s what Tony Abbott wrote:

Dear Abbey,

Thank you for letting me know your views on same sex marriage.

I appreciate you letting me know about your own family. In my family, I have a sister with a female partner.  My sister’s partner is a loved member of our family.

While I respect your views on same sex marriage, I hold a different view.

My personal position is to support the existing definition of marriage.

The Government supports the current definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act. Any change to this policy would be a matter for the Coalition Party Room.

Thank you again for writing to me.  I wish you well in the future.

Yours sincerely

TONY ABBOTT

Abbey Gets A Reply

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Sep 05

vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

I ask everyone here today to witness that I Gregory Paul Storer choose you Michael Nathan Barnett to be my legal husband.

Michael, when we started our relationship, my online profile said that I understood my place in the Universe and that I was looking for the right person to share it with.  I said that mental voids need not apply.

You have been able to challenge me, reason with me and help me grow into a different man.  I have changed.  I am now a wonderfully happy person, in love with a wonderfully happy person.  You are no mental void but a man brimming with integrity, honesty, openness and love.

Michael today we face each other, I get to look into your beautiful eyes, watch your wonderful face and tell you why I’m here.

You know that I love you.  You know that despite all the wrongs in our world, all the things outside our control and all the things that we control that I willingly look at you and say you are the one that I want to be with.  You are the one that I choose to spend my time with.

I smile when I see you.  I look for you when you’re not here.  I revel in sharing the outdoors with you.  I delight in our conversations about the world.

We walk through the bush and climb to the top of mountains and look in awe.  These are times together that make my heart go zing.  You make my heart go zing.  It’s doing it right now.

So, today, with my heart going zing, I have surrounded myself with love.  I have taken the most important people in my life and brought them here.  I want the love that surrounds me, the love of my closest brother and sister, the love of my wonderful children, the love of my best friends, I want this love to surround me and I want it to surround you.

You too have brought to this place those you love, you have surrounded yourself with love.

There is here today over 200 years of marriage between our friends.  We are engulfed by love.

I stand before everyone here to say to you that I love you.

I love your passion for others.

I love your sense of justice.

I love your thoroughness.

I love your humour.

I love your integrity.

I want you to be my husband.

I want to share all of my life with you.

I want to explore the world with you at my side.

I want to discover the universe with you.

I choose you to be my husband.

 


You can read the vows Michael said to me here

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Aug 21

lyleThe Australian Senate is conducting an inquiry into the recognition of foreign (same-sex) marriages.

They have invited public submissions and are currently holding hearings in various places.

Today, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby was able to use his position to address the committee.  Lyle Shelton, a religious man exercised his democratic right to bring his faith into the political discussion for consideration.

Let’s have a look at what he had to say.

The recognition of foreign same-sex marriages bill is an attempt to further pressure Parliamentarians into capitulating to the same-sex political agenda to change the definition of marriage.

Yes?  And?

There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples. But for some reason, it is important to some political campaigners to see marriage changed from what it is to something else.

There is discrimination.  I’m married to Michael, that marriage is not recognised in Australia.  I’m not a political campaigner,  although you might consider me an activist.  I’m a (NZ) married man wanting my relationship valued and respected in the country of my birth.  Just like every other couple.

ACL facilitated 42,000 signatures on a submission to this inquiry. There is plenty of grassroots opposition to changing the definition of marriage.

42,000 signatures out of nearly 15 million voters, that’s about .28% of the population.  That’s 0.28%, yep, they’re rallying behind your cause.

Such is the politically correct orthodoxy surrounding this issue, few are willing to stand publicly against the political agenda it represents.

Rubbish – there’s plenty of you guys rabbiting on about it.  Just look at the list of people who have made submissions to the Senate inquiry.  I’ve highlighted them in red for you.

National Marriage Coalition (Submission 12)
-Ms Jenny Stokes
-Mr Bill Muehlenberg
Australian Family Association(Submission 2)
-Ms Terri Kelleher
Lawyers for the Preservation of the Definition of Marriage (Submission 18)
-Mr Christopher Brohier SC, Founder
-Mr Neville Rochow SC
Tony Briffa (Submission 40)
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights via teleconference(Submission 21)
-Mr Nathan Kennedy, President
Law Institute of Victoria (Submission 39)
Australian Christian Lobby (Submission 9)
-Mr Lyle Shelton, Managing Director
Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney (Submission 7)
-Mr Christopher Meney, Director
-Miss Mary Joseph, Research and Project Officer
Presbyterian Church of Australia (Submission 23)
Australian Baptist Ministries (Submission 8)
-Reverend Rod Benson, Tinsley Institute
-Reverend Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director

And that’s just one day of public hearings.

No one wants to be accused of prejudice but this is what Australian Marriage Equality asserts is the basis for opposing their political objective is (see page 8 of the AME’s Supplementary Submission).

The best way not to be accused of prejudice is to not do it.  Did you do it?

This is of course deeply offensive to Muslims, Christians and Jews and countless other Australians of nominal or no religion who will always believe the truth about marriage and will want to teach it to their children.

Based on what?  You seem to be under the misapprehension that you have the only ‘truth’ about marriage.  Plenty of the religious demographics you mention have no issue with gay people getting married.  You can believe whatever you want, but stop trying to impose that on everyone else.  Nobody is asking anyone to marry against their religion, but plenty of us are asking to marry the one we love, just like you got to do.

We do not have fear or hate in our hearts, we simply have a view about marriage that we wish to see upheld in public policy. We will want to uphold this through the institutions of civil society such as schools, charities and churches that we create and participate in.

On one hand he tells us that he does not have fear or hate in his heart, the other hand says that it will mean that he’ll be fined and locked up.  Which is it Lyle?

Nobody is saying that you can’t uphold your religious version of marriage.  What we are asking is that in a civil society all should be treated equally under that law.

The recent Crosby Textor poll mislead people by framing the questions as if no one but the same-sex couple would be affected and that there would be no impact on religious freedom.

Impact?  Here I am, part of a persecuted minority thanks to thousands of years of religious generated hate, and yet you’re cross that someone might tell you to cut it out?  What gives you the right to discriminate against someone just because they don’t hold your narrow view of human sexuality?  The impact at present allows your religious freedom to hold the view that I am detestable.   Despite all the research around human sexuality, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the general acceptance in our society, you still want to use the bible to claim victim status and deny me the right to be treated fairly?

Australians don’t want to see their fellow citizens being fined or perhaps even jailed for acting on their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

No, they won’t be fined for holding a belief, they would possibly be fined for breaking the law.  This is such a silly argument, I can’t believe people still use it.

A child such as baby Rhyley lying in a Thai hospital ward, featured on page three of yesterday’s Age, is also affected by same-sex marriage ideology.

He is denied both his surrogate mother and his biological mother because the rights of two men to acquire a baby are allowed to trump the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child which says that all children have the right to be raised, wherever possible, by their biological parents.

You should underline wherever possible.  There are clearly exceptions to the rule now.   You just made one yourself.  You talk about the rights of a child to be raised by the biological mother all the time, and now you’ve just highlighted a right attributed to the surrogate mother.  I’m not sure I follow your reasoning there.

Sure James and Steve are capable of showing Rhyley love, and I’m sure they will. But neither can be his mum.

And?  Neither of them can be his Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent or family pet.  What they can be is co-parents.  You do know that plenty of kids the world over grow up outside this fantasy of mum, dad and two kids routine?  And guess what, they turn out ok too!

Marriage is not just about the emotional needs of adults. The definition of marriage references a biological reality which helps protect the rights of children. That is why governments regulate marriage.

No it’s not.  Marriage is a civil contract between two adults.  You put all that extra stuff into it to trump up your flimsy arguments.  Just in the subtext too Lyle, you’re saying that the biological reality of opposite sex parents helps to protect the rights of children, and yet you ignore that in those relationships children are abused, killed and used as weapons in relationship breakdown.  You are also quietly suggesting that somehow children raised in same-sex relationships aren’t safe, that some how the rights of the child isn’t protected.  That’s nasty.

Governments have no interest in other forms of romantic relationships. They are simply none of our business.

Rhyley is denied his human right to a mother not because of tragedy or desertion but because of a deliberate social engineering decision taken by two men.

You do know that men and women do the same thing, don’t you?  They resort to surrogacy and adoption, is that deliberate social engineering or does that sweet little title just apply to same-sex couples?

We have to ask ourselves whether this is ethical. We have to ask ourselves do we want a new definition of marriage to set these practices in cultural cement. The law is of course a teacher.

Yes, we do have to ask these ethical questions.  And look, here you are asking them.  Fancy that.

Our submission references polling which shows 73 per cent of Australians believe wherever possible a child should be raised by her or his biological mother and father.

Yep, that’s good.  Let’s underline wherever possible.  I also wonder if we can see the way the question was framed?  Or do we only ask those questions when we don’t agree with the result?

We can’t have it both ways and we desperately need an honest and mature debate about the consequences of changing the definition of marriage.

Here you are, a grown up, having a mature debate, addressing a Senate Inquiry.   I bet you wore a tie too!  Here is your chance to put your argument forward.   Yes, I know you’re tired of doing it at all these inquiries, but to suggest that a mature debate isn’t happening is bullshit.  I suspect what you really mean is that the ‘other side’ looks like they might win this.

If we think removing children from their biological parents is fine, then go for same-sex marriage.

It is fine, it happens all the time.  But you’re trying to be emotional, the very thing you say marriage isn’t about.  You use the word remove quite deliberately because is supports your cause.  It harkens back to the silliness of suggesting that we would be creating another stolen generation.  An argument that you unsuccessfully made and got nothing but flack for it.

But “marriage equality” is a slogan whose meaning should be unpacked.

If equality is the principle, how can we deny other definitions of marriage already recognised legally by other foreign jurisdictions?

What makes the gay lobby’s definition morally superior to those defined legally in other jurisdictions and cultures?

You miss the point, we can define marriage as we please, it’s an Act of Parliament.  Equality is the key word here.  We would, I think I can say fairly safely, only ever allow marriage between consenting adults.  A relationship without consent would not be condoned. So no child marriages.  You also seem to forget that there are many laws overseas that we wouldn’t simply enact for equality with other jurisdictions.  For example, in some places you can be executed for leaving your religion, or being gay.  We allow people in Australia to change religions and to be gay, we haven’t adopted the laws of other countries, even though some of our citizens think that it might be a good idea.  I think we are big enough and brave enough to have a good understanding of right and wrong.  Is this part of the mature debate?

One of the many overseas examples of the legal harassment of dissenters to same-sex marriage is the story of Washington florist Baronelle Stutzman who is being sued by the State Attorney General. I table her story in a seven minute electronic format and seek the chair’s permission to provide a copy to each committee member.

Honestly Lyle, you are missing the point again.  You can dissent as much as you like, and here you are dissenting.  Harassment of dissenters is not the case, they broke the law.  When you get a fine for running a red light do you feel that you’re being harassed for breaking the law?  When marriage equality becomes law then some people won’t be able to hide behind their religion to deny services to people.  Just as you can’t discriminate against women just because your religion says you can.  Oh that’s right, you can if you are a religion within the confines of your church.  So the catholics can sack an unmarried pregnant women who teaches in one of their primary schools.  Yet, a catholic principal working in a state school couldn’t do that.  Why is that, I wonder?

I challenge anyone who thinks there are no consequences to changing the definition of marriage to look a child in the eye and tell her she is not allowed to be raised by her biological mother or father.

Seriously. This the best you got?  You want a mature debate and stoop to overly emotive unnecessary hyperbole.  Nobody would ever say that to a child – how stupid. Let’s humour the concept though.  If you did want to say it, at what age would it be appropriate, birth? 2 years old? Too young to understand.  Maybe 10? Is that too late as they’ve already been raised? He also ignores all those kids that have been raised and are being raised by same-sex parents. Will he look those children in the eye and tell them, sorry, you’re going to have to go and live with your biological parents?

No, of course not.

That’s not the way to have a mature debate.

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Aug 15

When a sentence that starts with I’m not…(fill in the blank) and goes on with but… (insert justification), it is often an indication that you are the person you claim you are not.

“I’m not racist, but ”

“I’m not sexist, but”

“I’m not homophobic, but”

Here’s today’s real life example for you.

A man who has served as 17 years as the musical director inside a catholic church got the sack because he announced his engagement on Facebook.  His church held a “Town Hall Meeting for Listening and Respect” (whatever) so people had a chance to “voice emotions” about the decision.  The church authorities had known of his sexuality for sometime and appeared to have been OK with it.

That sends the message that as long as you don’t flaunt it they don’t mind.  If you then make a public declaration, you’re out.

Those that serve as ministers of the church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the church.

I do wonder about the churches’ teachings on forgiveness, and the notion that the church welcomes everyone.  But that is a discussion for another day.

But some supported the church’s decision, such as Frank Girjatowicz of Hoffman Estates.

“I am not against homosexuals,” he said. “But their style of life, according to human nature, is not acceptable.”

So, you’re not against homosexuals but it’s not acceptable?  So you are against homosexuals living their lives as they please, according to their nature?

In the upcoming TV show, Living With The Enemy, Michael and I go head-to-head with an Anglican Minister, David Ould.  I’d call him a fundamentalist, he’d probably prefer conservative.  David isn’t a homophobe or a bigot.  In an article written for News Corp:

Ould says he doesn’t hate gay people or wish to see homosexuality become illegal, but he doesn’t want gay people to be able to marry.

There was never any sign of David being anything other than welcoming of us into his family and his life for those five days.  I think that’s a really important point to make in the lead-up to this show.  The crux of the whole program was around marriage equality.

David also makes this statement in the article.

“You cannot underestimate the hurt some of these men and women feel. That’s one of the things I learnt,” Ould said.

I’m glad that he learned something during our time together.  The implied but part of the sentence would be something along the lines of “but, the bible says that homosexuality is wrong, and even though I know that some people are hurt by that, I’m going to continue to preach that it’s detestable.”

I made those words up, David hasn’t said that.  Just to be clear that I am putting my imagined words into his mouth!

He is able to recognise that there is hurt, the cause of some of that hurt is the words that are used as a justification to continue to marginalise gay people the world over.  David even said the words to our faces, in his church, in his ‘safe place’

“Do not have sexual relations with a man…that is detestable”

That’s in the NIV Bible.  Many of us much prefer the King James version.

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

Abomination is so much more powerful than detestable.

When we track back why people are opposed to marriage equality, when you strip away all the silly reasons that are offered, you know, breakdown of traditional family unit, denying children the right to be brought up by both parents, and so on, the reason driving all of this is their religion.  The basis of that belief is the book of Leviticus, written by authors unknown for a bunch of people wandering around the desert looking for the promised land.  Or at least that’s what we are lead to believe.

I reject that outright.  The bible does not hold any truth for me at all.  It simply does not apply to my life.

David also says in the article:

it’s a role of the Church to make sure there’s “proper, mature debate” about gay marriage (which can only be changed by government legislation.)

“One of our roles is to say look we believe that God made the world and the lord Jesus Christ is king of all things and he actually knows best.”

The assumption that the church has a role ‘to make sure’ something happens in our society is quite frankly arrogant.   The church as it stands does not represent the majority of Australians, David’s brand of church certainly isn’t the majority and it lost its moral authority decades ago, about the time that the rest of society worked out that ministers are people just like everyone else, able to lie, steal, cheat and some of them abuse children.  David and his church can have a say in the affairs of the world and here’s the but, it’s not the role of the church to make sure of anything other than its own in-house standards.  Why?  Because there is no god that made everything, there is no king of all things and to suggest that some fictional character, Jesus, knows best is laughable.

Stop using the rules of your religion to tell me how to live my life.

That’s my quote.

2014-08-15-Guide-to-Outrage

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Aug 13

Today is a day of anniversaries for me.

I’m celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my Coming of Age.

I’m celebrating the anniversary of my birth.  51 years.

I’m recalling my first trip overseas.

Then, there’s a couple of other anniversaries that need mentioning.

Marriage Equality was blocked in Australia 10 years ago today.

30 years ago was the last time my family was together.

So yes, Happy Birthday to me.  See my blog this time last year!

I remember my birthday 10 years ago.  We were going out to dinner to celebrate.  Somewhere in Chinatown in Melbourne.  It was all arranged.

I wasn’t so much an activist back then.  It had only been a couple of years since I had embraced my sexuality and I was still coming to terms with what it all meant.

I was running late, because I was listening to the radio.  News Radio was covering the live debate from the Senate on Marriage Equality.  Although really it wasn’t about equality.  It was about amending the Marriage Act to include the words

Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

The amendments also required marriage celebrants to mutter those words, just to drive home the point at every marriage in Australia.

I was standing in the kitchen, by the radio, as the votes where being counted, and then listened to the result, 38 Senators voted in favour of amending the Act.  6 Against.  Australia had successfully legislated discrimination against couples of the same-sex.

The effect on me was immediate.  Angry.  I had worked so hard to come to terms with my sexuality.  Many of my family and friends had embraced the new me.  Yet here was the Government, both of the major parties, Labor and Liberal, telling me that my relationship was second-rate.  In effect I was a second class Australian.  I just couldn’t believe what had just happened.  Even though it was expected, I was hoping that at least the Senate might throw the bill back to the House of Representatives and ask for a re-think.

Let me point to that moment in time as the start of my activism for my right and the rights of all other non-heterosexual couples to be treated as equal citizens.

I’ll keep fighting for as long as it takes.  I can’t believe it’s been 10 years!

International Commissioner!

International Commissioner!

The other life event for me 30 years ago was my first trip outside of Australia.  I spent 6 weeks in the USA, Richmond Virginia.  I was at a Boy Scout Summer Camp and it is one of the highlights of my life!  Can you imagine this small town young man travelling solo to the USA.  I’d only ever been as far as Perth and then I drove there.  The sheer excitement and nervousness of standing at Tullamarine, looking at the plane and seeing gaffer tape around the tail wings.  The horror of arriving in Houston to be told there was a strike and no planes were flying.  Getting to New York and not understanding that I needed to fly with a different airline to get to Washington DC, being completely lost in the airport.  Taking a Greyhound bus to Richmond only to arrive at the bus terminal and spend hours sitting there because nobody came to collect me.  They didn’t answer the phone (landlines!) and I had a lot of trouble using the payphone with all this foreign money.

The last full clan gathering 1984

The last full clan gathering 1984

Memories!  When I returned from the US it was only a matter of weeks until I turned 21. 30 years ago today.  At that birthday party the family of 11 children gathered for the last time.  Every other event since then always had one or two of us missing.  And now with my sister Helen and my parents dying it will never be possible again.

Time continues to travel in such a way that we can’t go backwards.

Happy Anniversaries everyone!


Take some time to send a message to your MP about Marriage Equality

Attend the next Equal Love Rally August 16th. Michael and I will be addressing the rally.


 

 

 

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Aug 11

We’re a couple of lucky uncles!

In Abbey’s last letter to Tony Abbott she makes her final plea to please change the law!

What an amazing young woman she is.  At the age of 8 she seems to have a better grasp of the world and what needs to change than our own leaders do.

What’s really good to know is that the subject of marriage equality is a topic of conversation in her house.    That’s what we need.  People prepared to have the conversation and then to act and do something.

Have you done that?  Made your thoughts known?  Where does your elected representative stand?  Visit the Australian Marriage Equality website and find out, send your own letter today!

If she should ever hear from the PM, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Can’t wait to see what the next move is!

Thanks Abbey for your great efforts!

To Tony Abbott

This is my last letter

I’ve loved writing to you

Gay marriage is what my uncles should have

the right to do :)

Please, please change the law :)

from Abbey :)

 

 

Letter7

Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 4  Letter 5 Letter 6

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Aug 10

Abbey knows that she’s just about at the end of her week-long letter writing campaign to the Prime Minister.  She restates just what it is that she’s looking for.

To Tony Abbott

I only have one more letter to you.

I would absolutely love it if you would

change the law about gay marriage.

from Abbey.

 

letter6

Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 4  Letter 5 Letter 7

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Aug 10

Up to day 5 and Abbey makes it plain that even at 8 she understands that some people may be afraid of change.

To Tony Abbott

Change is normally for the best.

It’s okay to make a change to laws

and the way you think.

from Abbey

Letter5Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 4  Letter 6 Letter 7

 

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Aug 09

Abbey’s letter writing campaign arrives at day 4.  She reminds the PM that while she understands he may be busy running the country, it’s polite to respond to your correspondence in a timely fashion.

Her question is unchanged.  Will he allow Michael and me, and all others who chose to, to get married in Australia?

 

To Tony Abbott

this is the 4th letter I am

writing to you about gay

marriage.

I haven’t had a reply from

you yet so when you have time

Please write back.

I know it’s hard running a

county.

Will you change your mind

about gay marriage?

from

Abbey
Letter4

Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 5 Letter 6 Letter 7

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Aug 08

Abbey is determined to make her point to the PM.  She reminds him today that she will write to him for a week.

Letter 3

To Tony Abbot

I’m just reminding you that

I’m writing to you once a day for a

week because I would like the law

changed.  So that gay people can get

married.

Abbey age 8

Letter3Here is Letter 1 and Letter 2  Letter 4 Letter 5 Letter 6 Letter 7

 

 

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