Former Ellenbrook resident laments Australia’s lagging on marriage equality


Mitchell Dehnel and his partner Joel.
Mitchell Dehnel and his partner Joel.

A FORMER Ellenbrook resident, now living overseas, says he cannot believe his relationship still cannot be legally recognised in Australia.

Mitchell Dehnel moved to Japan two years ago with his partner Joel.

He thought upon moving it would only be a matter of time until marriage equality was a reality in Australia.

Mr Dehnel is due to return to Perth next month to live and said he was coming home to a country that still would not grant him the same rights and recognition as heterosexual couples.

He said it was not only the symbolic meaning of marriage that was important to him, but also the legal repercussions if he or his partner was to die, or be seriously injured, without a will.

“I am frustrated and increasingly angry that I cannot get married in my own country,” he said.

“When Joel and I moved to Japan we weren’t placed in the same town because we couldn’t provide a marriage certificate, we thought being de facto in Australia would give us all the benefits of being married, but it doesn’t.

“We’ve spent the last two years spending six hours every weekend travelling to see each other, because marriage equality doesn’t exist in Australia.”

Mr Dehnel said many people in Australia had been waiting years to marry the person they loved and many people had died never being able to be legally recognised in their own country.

“I’m sad and a little scared every time I read about another gay couple that has died without being given the opportunity to marry,” he said.

“The couple that died in that Dream World accident probably thought they’d be able to get married one day as they were still young, but freak accidents happen.

“It’s not just a ceremony or a piece of paper; it’s real discrimination against a large group of people, who are begging for the opportunity to be treated like everyone else.”

Last month, a Taiwan court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage and this month Thailand announced it was acting on a petition to pass a bill ensuring same-sex marriage and equal rights for its LGBTQI community.

Mr Dehnel said this news made him happy, but also sad that Australia was still lagging.

“I’m jealous, but happy for them,” he said.

“Every country that legalises marriage equality puts more pressure on our government to do something, although I am eternally surprised and disappointed in how little our government will look after it’s citizens.

“I haven’t always been the most outspoken activist, but I’d be a massive hypocrite to criticise our government’s inaction while doing nothing myself, so I’m going to get more involved; email my MP every other day until they block me, march at Pride events, support the companies that support marriage equality and write posts on social media until I can marry the person I love.”

WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt said Australia was a long way behind on marriage equality.

“While a majority of Parliamentarians support marriage equality, a small number inside the Turnball Government are doing everything they can to stop a free vote, delay and get in the way,” she said.

“All Labor MPs in WA support marriage equality and Labor wants marriage equality to succeed in passing Parliament, that is why we won’t be rushing to put forward a private members bill, as until the Liberal Party allows a free vote, it wouldn’t pass this Parliament.

“This means we need all those who care about his issue to lobby their local Liberal MPs and tell them that they want a free vote now; people like Christian Porter and Ken Wyatt.”

WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, his party’s first openly gay elected member, said any future same-sex marriage bill also needed religious protections.

“I have long believed the issue of same-sex marriage should be decided in the Parliament by a free vote,” he said.

“The Senate’s Select Committee report on the Government’s marriage legislation was a historic consensus report, and provided a sensible framework to legislate for same-sex marriage.”

To show your support for marriage equality in Australia or for more information visit http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/home.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 22 countries

760 million people live in countries where same-sex marriage is legal
Countries that have legalised same-sex marriage

2001- Netherlands becomes first country to legalise same-sex marriage
2003 – Belgium
2005- Spain and Canada
2006-South Africa
2009-Norway and Sweden
2010- Portugal, Iceland and Argentina
2012- Denmark
2013- France, Brazil, Uruguay and New Zealand
2014-The United Kingdom, excluding northern Ireland
2015-Ireland, United States and Luxemburg
2016-Columbia and Greenland
2017- Finland
Pending- Taiwan

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