Council leader wants discrimination to end

Partners of more than 30 years, Stephen Hart and Chris Harkins, joined a marriage equality rally in Geelong this month, urging the Federal Government to change marriage legislation.

Colac Otway deputy mayor Stephen Hart says registering his relationship of 27 years with the State Government had “less dignity than registering your dog at the shire offices”.

Stephen said, despite other municipalities in south-west Victoria publicly supporting marriage equality, he acknowledged Colac Otway Shire Council had no formal stance on the issue.

But he said he personally supported marriage equality and had experienced first-hand the discrimination Australia’s current marriage laws created.

Stephen, who registered his relationship with his partner Chris in 2014, said the lack of recognition of same-sex relationships caused discrimination in a variety of ways.

“When we were nine years into our relationship I had to drive my partner to hospital as he had injured himself with machinery,” Stephen said.

“On admittance, the publicly funded hospital refused to accept my name as the ‘next of kin’ and insisted on him naming a direct relative.

“In 2006 the State Government permitted same-sex relationships to be registered.

“In May 2014, when it was clear that marriage equality was a long way off, we registered our loving relationship of some 27 years at that time, in the State Government office in Geelong.

“The process, which involved queuing with people paying their fines for various offences, had less dignity than registering your dog at the shire offices,” he said.

“But I understand that the current State Government has since improved that process.”

Stephen said aside from “the human side of registering our relationship”, it meant their relationship was recognised in Victoria and if either of them was hospitalised in Victoria they should be able to name each other as next of kin.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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