Put a Marriage Equality statement in your wedding ceremony

December 28, 2014

My husband Gregory and I went to Canberra for the wedding of our friends Melanie and Ari on December 7 2014.  That day was also the first anniversary of same-sex marriages being temporarily legalised in the Australian Capital Territory.

Ari invited me to deliver a message of Marriage Equality at the wedding, as a friend of his who is an activist for marriage equality and as a man who was recently married to a man in New Zealand.  I was honoured to have been asked and without hesitation I accepted.

Order of Ceremony - Mel & Ari - Dec 7 2014

Ari and Mel object to the Federal government’s refusal to legislate in favour of Marriage Equality in Australia and they, along with an increasing number of opposite-sex couples, are incorporating statements of protest in their wedding ceremonies.

I read the following statement:

Speech for Mel & Ari’s wedding – December 7 2014

Today… the celebrant will declare as a requirement that marriage is the coming together of a woman and a man.  Just remember that as these mandatory words are said today my husband Gregory and I stand in defiance of them.

I know Mel and Ari would rather this formality was not part of the proceedings.  So rather than let it diminish the occasion, I’m going to treat the clause as a gift from the government, to mark a point in time where we all aspired for greater freedom, equality, dignity and humanity.  When the discrimination in the law is erased and marriage is available to all, this will be a memento of the sweet success of that win.

I’m grateful for the friendship Gregory and I have with these two fine people, about to be married here today.  We value the respect they have for our relationship and without hesitation we deeply respect theirs.  As different as we may be individually, we share a love for our respective partners and in that, our relationships are truly equal.

If you’re attending a wedding between a woman and a man in Australia, ask the bride or groom if they’ve planned a Marriage Equality statement for their ceremony.  If they haven’t, send them this article and suggest they do it, in the name of equality.  It’s important, and it’s too easy.


My Marriage Vows

September 5, 2014

Wedding Vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

 

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

Gregory.  If I were asked to describe in one word what you mean to me it would simply be: “Everything”.  You mean the world to me – in *so* many ways…

Setting out to climb Mt Amos in Tasmania, a 15 year goal of mine.  Reaching the top, together, amazed at our efforts and the breathtaking views surrounding us.

Stopping by the roadside as we return from Mt Gambier to watch a koala bound up it’s tree.

Sitting in a forest at dusk, just us and some tiny bats getting their dinner.

Walking through a Croajingolong coastal heathland filled with the prettiest wild flowers.

Dining on Bala’s curries while enjoying a St Kilda beach sunset, then journeying to see the fairy penguins and the mischievous water rats.

Returning from our first equality rally in Albury to find a magnificent echidna, roadside, digging and snuffling for ants.

Drinks at the Laird enjoying the best of what it means to be a man.

Sharing a dinner of poached salmon and ginger while watching Q&A.

Standing on a 380 million year old mountain range in the Grampians, free from every care in the world.

Coffee and cakes at Grecos with Caitlin & Tomas.

Protesting for our rights at every Equal Love rally.

Brunches at La Cafe and walks along Carlisle Street.

Our kiss, in front of wildly fanatical protestors at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention that starts a worldwide viral sensation.

Standing by your side as you buried your sister and your parents.

Having a fight… and learning from our mistakes.

Your face nuzzled in *my* furry chest.  Your arms around me.  Your warm kiss on my lips.

Star gazing together into infinity at Mt Baimbridge and Bastion Point.  Trying to comprehend the sheer insignificance of our presence in *this* universe.  Realizing the meaninglessness of our existence.  Marvelling at the scale of just *what* is out there.

He’ll have a long black, make mine a long macchiato… with Equal.

Smoked salmon on Vita Weat.

Despairing together over the plight of those who don’t have a meal, those who don’t have a home, those who don’t have a country, those who have less than us and those who don’t know what they don’t have.  Crying, and trying to feel *their* pain.

You finding a tiny orchid on the forest floor, so delicate and pretty, for *me* to photograph.

Transforming our bodies from beyond obese – to amazingly healthy and fit.

Watching skillful New Holland Honeyeaters at Gypsy Point, them – plucking bugs from the air and us – sharing a freshly baked blueberry muffin.

Warming our frozen bodies with a delicious brewed coffee and hot toast and honey at the Sundial carpark.

Gado gado and Bali Coffee at Wong’s Cafe.

Becoming a truly loved son-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle to *my* most immediate family members.

A warm embrace after a long day as we fall asleep – together – in bed.

Interrupting my Cointreau chocolate mousse at Bridges last September in Ubud, to sweep me off my feet with the most unexpected and truly wonderful marriage proposal.

Gregory, YOU are the person who has brought so much into *my* life – every one of these amazing experiences – and *so* much more.  Each one different from the other and all equally wondrous.

The first five years of our relationship have been a fantastic journey.  I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to completing this journey with you – in whatever form it takes.

Life is unpredictable – and *forever* is hard to comprehend, but I want to do it with you, by your side, for however long we can be together – as your friend… your companion… your adventurer… your activist… your lover… your man… your Mikey Bear…… and your husband.


You can read the vows Gregory said to me here.


I will. I do.

September 11, 2013

Tonight Gregory and I went to dinner at Bridges Bali, a delightful restaurant that we had lunch at last Friday.  We returned because the service, food, atmosphere and location were impeccable.  Quite the combination if you get it all right.  Having had the entrée of rare roast lamb and the main of Thai-inspired grilled Barramundi, we settled for espressos and Cointreau chocolate mousse.  Yes, mousse.

And it was during the mousse, yes – mousse, that the conversation turned to one we’d had a number of times in the past, about marriage and our thoughts on it.  Yet, this time, there was a different tone to the conversation.  Gregory became a little more serious and actually asked me if I’d marry him, not if I’d ever marry him, but if I’d actually marry him.  The sort of question that demanded a yes answer, here and now.

Oh, I thought, this is the real thing, not a humorous conversation, but an actual marriage proposal.  I think I started to cry and was trying to maintain my composure between polite interruptions from the impeccably appointed wait-staff who clearly weren’t trained in the art of detecting a marriage proposal between two middle-aged men.  Wiping away the odd tear or two I said yes and continued trying to untangle the mass of emotions that had beset me, amidst what could only be described as one of the most idyllic moments of my life.

A quick phone-call from me back to Australia to let the folks know and a quick text message or two from Gregory back to his kids and sister and the deal was sealed.  I have to say, finding the courage to make that phone call, and finding the actual words to say were amazingly more fraught than I would ever have expected.  But having announced our engagement felt good, and it felt right.  I couldn’t think of a better man to be engaged to get married to.

Of course, the question has been asked, in which country will you guys get married.  Not a question most engaged couples get asked I suspect, because the expectation is they would celebrate their nuptials at home, wherever that was for them.  Yet for us two Australians, getting married at home is not so straightforward, because there is no legal option for us to do this in Australia currently.  We may be able to get married in a foreign consulate in Australia, but that wouldn’t be on Australian soil, and there wouldn’t be the stunningly beautiful Australian Coat of Arms on that marriage certificate.

It was a very simple decision for us.  We are going to get married to each other in Australia, under Australian law, on Australian soil.  It may be in the next three years, or it may be longer, but it will happen in both our lifetimes and most likely sooner than later.

We haven’t exchanged rings.  We probably won’t.  Rings are not our style.  We did get an ‘engagement ring’ from Facebook though, when we made that irrevocable and gay announcement to our social networks:

Engaged

So, thank you Gregory, you’ve changed my life, tonight, and every day since we met on that Tuesday in November 2008.  I love you.

P.S.  I can’t believe my enjoyment of the perfect chocolate mousse was interrupted by a marriage proposal.  Honestly.  Timing!


A response to Rabbi James Kennard on why some Jewish marriages fail

January 30, 2012

The following letter was published in full (see letter “Hidden Anguish in Marriage”) in the Australian Jewish News on Nov 6, 2009, in response to Rabbi James Kennard’s Matters of Principal column “Building the blocks of marriage” (AJN; Oct 30 2009 p23).

A copy of the column appears below my letter.

In talking about why so many marriages in the Jewish community are failing, Rabbi James Kennard neglects to mention two of the most important attributes a person must bring to a marriage: honesty and integrity. Without either, any marriage is doomed before it has even begun, no matter how hard the couple perseveres.

Roughly five to 10 per cent of any population is not attracted to the opposite sex, but rather the same sex. In the Jewish community this is often conveniently swept under the carpet and ignored, if it is ever even acknowledged. Many of these same-sex attracted people get married under pressure, possibly have children, find themselves in loveless relationships and the next thing is their marriages have fallen apart and they’ve got broken homes. Sadly I’ve met all too many of these people.

What is lacking in these marriages is honesty and integrity, and the reason why is because of intolerant attitudes in the community that make it a taboo to be in a relationship with a person of the same sex. The net result is false, hollow heterosexual relationships. The Orthodox community won’t even tolerate the idea of recognising same-sex Jewish relationships, let alone considering same-sex marriages (despite the position of the federal government). In this atmosphere of intolerance, same-sex attracted people will always be second-class and the marriages they find themselves in will inevitably be unhappy.

Perseverance is not the answer to sustaining a marriage if the foundation it’s build on is one of lies. What we need to teach our children is honesty, integrity and that it’s ok to have relationships with the people they want to love, not the people they are expected to love. We might then find that the percentage of happy marriages actually increases.

Michael Barnett.
Aleph Melbourne.

Australian Jewish News
Oct 30 2009
Page 23

Matters of Principal
James Kennard

Building the blocks of marriage

In an age of instant gratification, we are failing to teach our children the skills of perseverance, especially when it comes to sustaining a marriage.

GOOD news! Australia’s divorce rate last year was its lowest since 1992 and the number of marriages is on the rise. But before we become too complacent and begin to believe that we live in the land of matrimonial harmony, we must note that even this record low constituted no less than 47,000 divorces, compared to only 118,000 nuptials. Four in 10 marriages are still estimated to end in divorce.

So although the short-term trend is encouraging, the longer-term changes over decades show a significant decline in the number of marriages both commencing and enduring.

Every divorce is a personal tragedy. Often no-one is to blame, although many have to suffer. But as parents and educators, we must ask if we are preparing our children well for what will be the most important and consequential task of their adult lives – creating a loving and lasting marriage, for their own sake and that of their own children.

In some crucial respects, we are not succeeding. We are failing to teach our children to compromise or to persevere.

In striving to give our children self-esteem – a vital and difficult challenge in the world of competitive and sometimes cruel teenagers – we too often confuse self-worth with self-importance.

We put our children on a pedestal and tell each of them they are the most important person in their world. Bar and bat mitzvah parties turn into coronations of princes and princesses, with no indication that the youngster has any more to achieve in order to reach perfection.

Yet marriage requires precisely the opposite approach. Suddenly each partner in a couple has to realise that they are, at best, the second most important person in the world. They have to learn to share, to compromise and to yield. When in our children’s childhood and youth do we teach them these skills?

If a marriage hits a bumpy moment, as it often does, are future partners prepared? To the delight of advertisers and manufacturers, we live in a culture of “ending is better than mending”.

As soon as the iPod or iPhone looks tarnished, it’s time to get a new one (and that’s if we haven’t already upgraded simply because a new, slightly improved, model has been released). If a child has problems at school, the solution is to try a new one.

Clothes that suited us well 12 months ago are now “so last year”.

The same applies to challenges. In an era of instant gratification, if a problem cannot be solved quickly, it cannot be solved at all.

But marriage requires a mindset that is diametrically opposed to this cult of the new. We have to find opportunities to teach our children that often it is the old things that are worth preserving and that persevering with a problem may, in time, bring a solution.

Our children are not helped by the messages about relationships they receive from the media. The most popular movie genre, the romantic comedy, follows the same formula as the fairytale that was its cultural antecedent: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again – and they live happily ever after.

Dramas, on the other hand, usually start with a couple in a relationship and chronicle its dissolution. So the real (and best) story, of a couple working on their marriage and making it last, is rarely told.

One message that young people learn from their peers – that may or may not be endorsed by their parents – is the devaluing of sexual intimacy. In the past, society understood that sex was reserved for marriage and, even though this convention was often ignored, the expectation itself showed how physical relations can serve as a unique bond between couples permanently committed to each other for the long term.

Now such a view seems quaint or even so antediluvian as to be laughable. But if sex is used today to say “I like you” or even to say “hello”, what is left to say “I love you”?

The decline of marriage matters. It is not only human beings – parents and children – who suffer when a family is shattered, but society as a whole. Nature (whether the designer is God or Richard Dawkins) has arranged for the children of human beings to live with their parents for longer than the young of any other species, so that they can learn values and skills with which to prosper and build the next generation. The family is the building block of society itself.

A stable family does not guarantee stable children and many single or separated parents raise happy and confident young people. But to help our own children with the challenge of building their home and hence creating their own world, we must show them that the greatest happiness may take much time to achieve, but can last forever.

Rabbi James Kennard is principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College, Melbourne. His column appears monthly.


Chris Meney – speaking through the anus of the Catholic Church

July 17, 2010

Chris Meney quotes in an opinion piece published in The Age from a United States Government report (see email below), that makes the claim:

Compared to children living with married biological parents, those whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than eight times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse, and nearly eight times the rate of neglect.

I live with my partner and his two teenage children.  They are not being abused, maltreated or neglected.  I see them receiving a whole lot of love, care, respect and a fairly decent deal overall.  I would say they are two fairly well-adjusted teenage children who have a father in a stable and happy relationship.

They also spend quality time with their mother, as time and circumstances permit.  They have unlimited access to both parents and get what they need from both of them as much as possible.

My partner and I met in November 2008.  Meeting Gregory changed my life in the most wonderful way.  I had been in a very lonely and dark place for some months and his presence uplifted me and brought me back to a stable and happy place.  I may even have succumbed to my suicidal thoughts if I had remained single for much longer back then.  Having each other in our lives makes us truly happy and it wasn’t too much longer after starting a relationship that we made it known to our friends and families.  We even registered our relationship with the Victorian Government on April 21 this year.  We did this for legal reasons as by default our relationship would only be recognised under law after two years.

Gregory’s children have grown up with their father having a male partner since they were very young and for them this was normal.  When I came into Gregory’s life I also came into their lives.  I had never been in a relationship with a parent before.  It was uncharted territory for me.  Yet it seemed very straightforward.  I have adapted to having a partner who has had to juggle his time between me and his children, and it works well.

Gregory has been his children’s primary care-giver for a number of years prior to his marriage breaking up, some 13 years ago.  Complicating the picture is that his ex-wife is not well and is no longer able to work.  He supports his children and the support sometimes has to stretch to supporting his ex-wife as well, so she can look after their children when they are with her.  This puts strains on the finances.  Despite that Gregory somehow makes ends meet, and makes sure his children are looked after.  He goes to pains to make sure they are not neglected.

Chris Meney has extrapolated American research to an Australian situation.  The two societies are not the same.  His assertions about Australian society are unfounded as the research he (ab)uses is not relevant here.  There may be parents in Australia who neglect or abuse their children, but it is not because they are unmarried or living in the types of relationships that he does not approve of.  I know of children who have been abused by one or both of their married parents while living in the family home and have sustained long-term psychological damage from it.

Heterosexual married parents may offer a stable environment for children but so do homosexual parents and single parents.  I can guarantee no child born into a same-sex relationship ever happened by accident.  The same cannot be said of all too many children of heterosexual couples, married or otherwise.  Further, I am yet to hear of a pregnant woman in a same-sex relationship who has had an abortion, despite the increasing numbers of women in same-sex relationships giving birth.

The Catholic Church, together with its ideology, is pure evil.  Chris Meney is no better for being its mouthpiece.  Actually it’s more of an anus than a mouthpiece.

Michael.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: jimwoulfe
Date: 16 July 2010 18:22
Subject: Meney article and the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse
To: ausqueer@yahoogroups.com

The study referred to in the Meney article is here:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/nis4_report_congress_full_pdf_jan2010.pdf

While the proportion of children raised outside marriage is going up, the study reports a 26% decrease in reported child abuse or neglect in the period 1994 – 2005/6, including a 38% decrease in sexual abuse cases (pages 6-7).

In the overwhelming majority of cases (81%) the perpetrator (both of abuse and neglect) was the child’s biological parent (page 14) and “68% of the maltreated children were maltreated by a female, whereas 48% were maltreated by a male”, though males were more highly represented in cases of abuse carried out by non-biological parents.

Children living with the non-biological partner of a parent were 8 times more likely to be maltreated than children living with two married biological parents (page 12). This statistic is the platform on which Meney builds his argument. Given the lower rates of co-habitation in the US, generalising this statistic to countries with high rates of cohabitation (like Australia) is highly questionable.

The overwhelming evidence from this study is that children in marginalised families are more likely to be abused or neglected. In the United States, to be born black, poor, or to a single parent is to be born more vulnerable to abuse.

With respect to families headed by same-sex couples, the only message you could infer this study is that they should be allowed (indeed encouraged) to marry. Instead Meney has dogwhistled rainbow families with “Vocal minority groups often assert a right to have children delivered to them on demand”.

It’s interesting that he departs from the usual arguments when he says, “At some point, however, the debate needs to move beyond paying mere lip-service to “the best interests of the child”.” Well, yes. Valued, well-respected parents have valued well-respected kids.

If only Meney could follow his own logic.


Mark Baker: a Jewish perspective on gay equality

July 12, 2010

Mark Baker has written a particularly poignant piece for Galus Australis challenging discrimination against same-sex attracted people, from his Jewish perspective:

When a Kiss Means Death

We need more intelligent, compassionate and articulate people like Mark fighting for the dignity and equality of same-sex attracted people in the Jewish and wider community; people who are not scared of religious bigots.

On the contrary, John Searle, JCCV President, could learn a lesson from Mark Baker.  Searle should be ashamed of himself.  He claims to be looking after the best interests of the members of the Jewish community yet he is too spineless to speak out on this critical issue, preferring to pander to the traditonal intolerant and antiquated orthodox bloc.  Just what sort of a leader and man is he?

Thank you very much Mark.

Michael.


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