Almost three months since same sex marriage surveys arrived in Lithgow's letter boxes, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to support amending legislation to include same sex couples in Australia’s definition of marriage.
Hartley residents Sebastian Caruso and Jeff Thurlow have decided to formalise their commitment after the positive outcome was announced in early November.
The majority of respondents in the Calare government area were behind changing marriage legislation, with 60 per cent of returned surveys in the region supporting same sex marriage compared to 62 per cent in Australia overall.
“We have a strong commitment to each other from a relationship perspective, and we are a part of this community. The act of getting married is just a formalisation of that commitment for us,” Mr Caruso said.
Apart from the choice to marry, Mr Caruso said he expected the new legislation would aid lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning members of the community in several ways, particularly younger people coming to terms with their sexuality.
“You’re identifying yourself as something different from a very young age. And then a lot of the time you isolate yourself because it’s not something you know how to deal with. A lot of people in our generation, myself included, have had to go through a lot of counselling to help us accept something that hasn’t, up until now, been accepted as a societal norm. So whilst you’ve got your own journey of self-acceptance, you are dealing with society’s acceptance of it as well,” he said.
“I think if it [same sex marriage] was already recognised as law when I was growing up then people would have recognised it as a normality in society because there has always been a sense of difference about it. The process we’ve had to go though all these years, the intolerance, the abuse, the ostracisation, that would have been different.”
Lithgow librarian Ali Kim, who recently presented a series of interviews with LGBQ residents of Lithgow at the Australian Homosexual Histories Conference in Adelaide, said those interviewed were seeking acceptance.
“Most LGBQ people I know don’t want to get married personally. It’s about feeling accepted as part of the wider community. It’s about Australia saying we are just as valid, our relationships are valid, we’re all in this together.
“There are young people, Indigenous people, transgender people and intersex people for whom the community is still a very unsafe place. I think it’s important as a community we ensure everyone is accepted and valued. We have a long way to go but this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
Mr Caruso said he had not always been in favour of getting married.
“No, definitely not. The plebiscite brought out the worst and best of people, but also gave us the opportunity to rethink things like what marriage meant for us and what we wanted to do and where we are in our lives at the moment.
“It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to the outcome. The outcome of the vote actually lets us have that discussion.”
Mr Caruso thanked Lithgow for the sense of acceptance he has found since moving to the area in 2009.
“We are very blessed to live in this local area, we are blessed to have lots of friends and lots of friends who are very supportive of our relationship.”