Australia's First Same Sex Marriage - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Australia's First Same Sex Marriage

I recently spoke about Jill Kindt and Jo Grant in the House of Representatives. Theirs is a story of hope, loss, and love.

You can read the full speech below.

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (19th June 2018): Tonight I want to acknowledge some very important people in the gallery. The Hon. Yvette D'Ath, the Attorney-General of Queensland and, of course, a former member of this place, is here, as is her staffer, Kirsten MacGregor, and, most importantly of all, Jill Kindt is here with her sister Robyn. Jill Kindt and her wife, Jo Grant, were together for a very long time. They had a commitment ceremony in 2013, which they saw as the beginning of their marriage. But they also had another ceremony in 2017, and that was a legal wedding.

 

Jo was terminally ill with a rare cancer on the day of that wedding, 15 December last year. She passed away very soon after. But the two of them really considered themselves to be married since their commitment ceremony. That was their real wedding and their real marriage. But it is important to note that theirs was Australia's first legal wedding to be held under the marriage equality laws that this parliament passed on 7 December, just over a week before. When they married, they didn't wish their story to be told, but now Jill, along with her mother-in-law, Sandra, are happy for the world to know. The Queensland Attorney-General, the Hon. Yvette D'Ath, has told their story in the Queensland parliament. Tonight, I acknowledge it in the nation's parliament.

 

I've had a chance to talk to Jill tonight, and so has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Jill told us that, when the postal survey results came back, she and Jo really felt relief rather than happiness. But, as they saw how happy their friends and family were, they became happy too. When marriage equality finally passed, Jill told me that organising to get legally married felt impossible for her. Jo was very ill, receiving palliative care from a local group called Cittamani. Jill was there around the clock, of course, as Jo's carer.

 

Jill had a conversation with Loretta, one of the palliative care nurses about how out of reach marriage seemed. Loretta, showing the great kindness so typical of those who work in palliative care, took immediate steps to find out whether a wedding could be organised. She spoke with another nurse, Leanne, and that set in train some conversations with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Yvette's department. The usual 30-day waiting period was waived because of Jo's cancer. They had had a real scare earlier in the year, in March. There was no time to waste. It was less than two months after the wedding that Jo passed away.

 

Jill, congratulations on your wedding. Thank you for coming all the way to Canberra to parliament to talk to us about your love story and about your wife. I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

Jill and Jo were married in Queensland with the help of the wonderful staff at Births, Deaths and Marriages—because of their work, the paperwork difficulties, the waiting period and the other hurdles were overcome. Jo and Jill were approved, married and registered all in one day thanks to their work. Tracy Rankin from Births, Deaths and Marriages even drove halfway to Coolum, where the ceremony was held, so she could hand over the marriage certificates to the celebrant, Kari, who had also been arranged by the palliative care nurses. They did it at a roadside servo. It was so soon after the bill passed that the Births, Deaths and Marriages people hadn't even designed a commemorative certificate yet, so they whipped up two versions in 24 hours and printed both so that Jill and Jo could choose.

 

Jill told me that, at the wedding ceremony, Jo talked a lot about community, and they were really just so grateful for the community pulling together, and for these people they hadn't even met before—they didn't even know them, strangers—working so hard to make their wedding possible.

 

We saw the photos tonight from the first ceremony back in 2013, from the ceremony that was held in December 15. Tanya and I were in tears. The photos were amazing. They were beautiful. Jill's wife was such a special person. Jill told us about the jewellery that she made and the sculptures that she made and the craft that she put together and the things that she could do and how driven she was. It was really humbling to hear.

 

This beautiful, sad story is a reminder of the importance of removing discrimination. Jill told me that that was what mattered to her and to Jo, to have the same rights as anyone else. Before their marriage, Jill had been removed as Jo's next of kin on two occasions. She had to explain their relationship. How hard would that be when you're caring for someone you love who's about to pass away, to have to justify your relationship? This love story shames this parliament for failing to pass marriage equality sooner, because it's almost impossible not to think of others who didn't survive to marry legally. Most of all, it affirms this parliament's decision from last year. It's great to see that there have been 564 same-sex marriages registered in Queensland alone since that decision. It's a love story and I congratulate them. Jill, I'm sorry for your loss.

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