I admit, I haven’t been losing sleep over our inability to get legally married. Why? New Zealand is a socially progressive, fair country, and if it didn’t happen now, it would happen in a few years. As Motormouth Maybelle said in Hairspray, “A foot in the door, that’s all it is. One toe at a time.”
I also have to admit, last night, watching the parliamentary debate of the third reading of the bill to legalise LGBTI marriage on TV, I knew we had it in the bag. Deep down, something told me, “We’ll be equal in the eyes of the law now.”
New Zealand Parliament didn’t let us down. They voted 77 to 44 to legalise same-sex and transgendered marriage. We became the 13th country in the world to do so.
Suddenly, a young man in the gallery above Parliament stood up and started to sing Pokarekare Ana, a powerful Maori love song that makes me cry nearly every time I hear it. Everyone else rose, even the politicians, even the politicians who had been against the bill, and joined in. Only in New Zealand, eh?
It shows who New Zealanders are, deep down, as a people. There is not that great gulf between conservatives and liberals here. Sure, we may argue about ideology and how things are implemented, but deep down, those divides are not a chasm like they seem to be in the USA and other places.
A lot of people fought for this right for us. Noel and I had fought for equal rights in immigration, and, to be honest, I kinda felt we did our bit for gay rights. As I said before, I knew that eventually, one day, we would have full equal rights.
When we went to bed, I think I stared at the ceiling for a while as the sheer weight of now being totally and unequivocally an equal with any of my straight friends, family, or co-workers in the eyes of the law pressed down on me. It came to me that this was the feeling women had when they got the right to vote or right to make their own reproductive choices. This was the feeling people who had been enslaved but were now free had upon their freedom. This was the feeling people who were denied marrying the person they loved on the basis of, first, religious beliefs, then skin colour, felt when they suddenly had the right to marry that person they loved.
I was at the end of a journey, the end of a fight to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. It had started the day I was born (and we still have a long way to go in the USA and socially, I admit) and here it was, 17 April 2013, and the journey to complete legal freedom ended successfully at the age of 39.
I stared up at the ceiling, tears in my eyes, and a smile creeping along my face.
I felt utterly and completely free.