This is a repost from SameSame.com.au – Article by Matt Akersten, published Tue 1st Dec, 2015
We just love seeing a same-sex couple featured among the weddings in a local paper. Jess van Netten and her wife Libby Jones’ lovely riverside wedding photo appeared in the Newcastle Herald on Monday.
“We faced no opposition when the photo was submitted and had only positive feedback from the community so far,” Jess tells Same Same.
There they are, cuddling beside a waterfall on their unforgettable day.
The couple met at work and were together five years before their marriage in September.
“We met over a game of chess after working together for a year,” Jess says. “That first chess game lasted over eight hours – a sure sign we both wanted it to keep going!”
Tech-head Jess proposed to muso Libby on their second anniversary, with an engraved guitar pick that said ‘I pick you every day, marry me Libby’.
“We decided to get married after being engaged for two years – we were originally waiting for it to become legalised but decided we weren’t going to wait forever. It was important for us to have our love recognised publicly amongst family and friends by committing to each other for life.”
The couple’s ceremony was held at Riverwood Downs, and due to the lack of legal requirements for a celebrant or official, the service was conducted by a close family friend.
“My favourite part was being able to have the whole crowd pronounce us married,” says Jess.
“Our whole community helped us cross the line to wife-dom! Many of our friends said our service was the most touching and real they had been to because we made it our own.”
Married life has been wonderful with the most surprising support from the couple’s very elderly neighbour who was so thrilled for them she shed a tear.
One frustration Jess found was in changing her surname. “If we were able to be legally married, a marriage certificate would be all that is required for the process to occur,” she explains.
“Without that certificate, I have to change my name from birth until now – I have to erase who I was before and pay a hefty fee to be equal to my sister who got married and simply handed in her certificate as proof.”
Jess has close experience of how much equal rights for relationships really means. “Very close friends of my family were together for 36 years,” she recalls. “When they were younger, they had difficulty getting a home loan because they were both women. Professionally, with one as a teacher, their relationship was kept semi-secret and they hadn’t told some of their closest friends for fear of rejection.
“After 35 years, one of them was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease. The next year or so was spent surrounded by friends and family as things progressively got worse until she passed away. As they knew the eventual outcome, they made sure all their legal documentation was in order to ensure no hassles with the will or final wishes. After she had past, her partner still had to go through extreme measures to ‘prove’ their relationship, including getting signed witness statements from friends to attest to the legitimacy of it.
“As if losing the love of your life wasn’t heartbreaking enough, asking your closest friends and also strangers to write statements describing your private life is invasive and discriminatory. Having an official marriage certificate could have made the difference.”
Obviously things have come quite a long way since then, Jess realises. “Libby and I are saving for a house deposit and will have no issues with loaning money from a bank. We were still met with some criticism but mostly surrounded joy and love when we declared our intent to get married.
“Things have improved, but things still need to be better. I never thought our relationship could be any better – but somehow, getting married has improved our connection to each other and our wider community. I encourage those with hesitations about marriage equality to consider their own life situation if the tables were turned and straight people were unable to marry. Would they peacefully accept this inequality and be content being considered a slightly less than citizen? Would they feel their own country was staggering behind the general Western world when even New Zealand is singing in parliament out of joy for changing laws? Or would they fight for the fair go our country prides itself on.
“Have some pride in your own people Australia. Say yes to marriage equality. Be the love we want to see in the world today.”
Bonus – Here is Jess and Lib’s Marryoke Video – just for fun! Jess collaborated with everyone else to record this Marry-Oke video as a surprise for Libby.