Recently I was alarmed to read a story of an Australian gay couple. I sadly cannot locate the story now but it highlights a part of why Marriage is so important.
The couple (Let’s call them Jack and John, the story mentioned no names) had been together for a number of years. Eventually, Jack passed away, dying of cancer. The story goes on to say that within 24 hours of his partner’s demise, John was served with papers asking him to vacate their home. He was permitted to hold a memorial, but was told in no uncertain terms that he was not to attend the funeral, held in the family’s home state. Jack’s body was taken away, and the family ignored that John ever had a part in his life, let alone being his partner.
It’s a sad story. I can’t tell you for sure whether this specific version of it has happened here in Australia. But it’s hardly a unique story – Something very similar happened in America
This is not something that you hear of happening to married couples. It doesn’t happen to wives, nor to husbands. There’s this thing called “senior next of kin” which is one of the few things that de facto status does not grant.
According to the State Library of New South Wales,
‘Next of kin’ can therefore include lesbian and gay partners. Despite this, if a person in a same-sex relationship dies without leaving a will, their partner’s wishes may be ignored by the family unless the partner can establish that a de facto relationship existed. This can be an important issue for a lesbian or gay person who may want their partner rather than their family to control the funeral arrangements. For this reason, it is especially important for lesbian and gay people to make their wishes clear in a will. Even then the executor is not bound by the directions left in the will. Disputes over ownership of the body or decisions about funeral arrangements are referred to the Supreme Court for hearing. Costs are met by the disputing parties.
Let me break this down: I could be in a loving relationship with a man for 40 years, I could die (I’m selfish, I’d rather be the first to go), having done everything I could legally, and the only way I can ensure that my partner has the right to do with my remains what he believes I would want (which in the course of 40 years, I’ve probably discussed at least once) is to make him the executor of my will – and even this can be challenged. I, fortunately, have a wonderful family and I can’t imagine them doing this to anyone. I know not everyone is so lucky…
Is this a question that straight people contemplate? I don’t think so. I’ve heard a few people concerned about what will happen to them when they die – which is why they talk to their husbands or wives – but not about whether their family will let their husband/wife *do* what they’re asked to.
Marriage cements the next-of-kin bond and being both senior next-of-kin and executor is much more difficult to challenge.
Join with me and fight for this important right, to name our partners as our next-of-kin
Stand with me at Queen’s Park at 1PM on the 18th of May – and remember to go to the Facebook event for the Rally for Marriage Equality Brisbane and let us know that you’re going, invite your friends, tweet it, post it on your uni campus, and put it on your workplace notice-board. Get the word out that it’s happening. The more people who show, the bigger the push for Parliament to pass it.
It’s time! Time to pressure our pollies! Time to remind the nation that it’s still not done! Time to stand and demand a definition of marriage that, like love, is gender-blind! It’s time! Time for marriage equality!