Bendigo same-sex couples discuss marriage equality as possible postal survey approaches

Erin Ross and Kelsey Griffin (pictured at a Bendigo Spirit presentation night) were married in Kelsey's home state of Alaska in 2015.
Erin Ross and Kelsey Griffin (pictured at a Bendigo Spirit presentation night) were married in Kelsey's home state of Alaska in 2015.

BENDIGO Spirit star Kelsey Griffin is one of the lucky ones.

When she and partner Erin Ross wanted to get married, there was an easy solution.

“We could just go back to my home state in the US and get married. We were lucky that we had that option,” she said.

Kelsey and Erin were married in Halibut Cove, Alaska, in the 2015 off-season – about a five hour drive from where Kelsey grew up. It is her favourite place to go camping.

But their marriage is not recognised in Australia.

While others might be frustrated, Kelsey remains optimistic.

“I have been very moved by how Bendigo has embraced our relationship,” she said.

“I feel really lucky to live in a place like Bendigo.

“To not have our marriage recognised in Australia is disappointing, but there is at least recognition of defacto relationships in many ways.”

Related: Bishop of Sandhurst calls for respectful debate

Kelsey hoped the debate about same-sex marriage would be respectful, and was confident people would be able to express their opinions without fear of ridicule.

“Everyone has a right to their opinion. It’s really important for people to be able to express their views,” she said.

“It’s not right to censor either side of the debate, as long as nobody is getting hurt.

“Earlier generations had to fight for the rights and acceptance we enjoy today.”

For other same-sex attracted people in Bendigo, the thought of a debate about their rights as human beings – with heavy political undertones – made them nervous.

Richard Tole has been with his partner Noah Pinder for six years. They plan to eventually marry, provided the law changes in Australia.

Mr Tole said the fact that the postal vote was non-binding made it a “waste of time”.

“The only binding aspect is the “no” vote. It’s clear that the conservative aspect of the Liberal Party has a lot of power,”  he said.

“I feel like they’re using us as a scapegoat.”

The couple thought that when New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage in 2013, Australia would follow soon after. It did not happen.

Mr Tole said they faced discrimination in a number of ways as a same-sex couple.

“If Noel passes away, I have no legal standing regarding the funeral or anything. I could be completely excluded from the process,” he said.

“But a married couple can have a say. Even if they’ve only been married two weeks.

Bendigo's  Richard Tole and Noah Pinder have been in a relationship for six years. They hope marriage equality will be achieved so more issues affecting same-sex couples can receive attention. Picture: NONI HYETT

Bendigo's Richard Tole and Noah Pinder have been in a relationship for six years. They hope marriage equality will be achieved so more issues affecting same-sex couples can receive attention. Picture: NONI HYETT

“There’s no legal safety net when it comes to joint home ownership either.

“All that really needs to be done is to change a few words in the Marriage Act. Once it’s done and dusted, we can move on to other issues that affect same-sex couples.”