Same-sex couples are looking outside the square to ensure their bond is legally recognised.
They are becoming each other’s power of enduring guardian to protect the futures they are building together. An enduring guardian arrangement gives one partner the legal right to make decisions about the other partner’s lifestyle, health and medical circumstances if one becomes incapacitated.
Other legal protections same-sex couples are putting in place include the power of attorney for financial affairs, and a binding death nomination form for superannuation.
THE PERSONAL IMPACT
Bowral’s Patrick Glanville, who has established a successful salon business and acquired property, doesn’t want his wishes to be disputed should he die.
He wants to ensure that his partner Daniel Emsermann is unequivocally recognised as his next of kin.
The protections have given Mr Glanville some peace of mind, but he still has concerns his wishes will be contested. “I’ve seen it happen, they go with blood before they go with partners,” Mr Glanville said.
“If either one of us becomes ill to the point that it may be terminal, we’ll have to sign everything over to the other.” Mr Glanville said it was “absurd” that despite his equal contribution to Australian society, his male partner was not legally recognised under the marriage act. “How come I can appoint [my partner] to be the legal person to state whether I live or die, but in a court of law a family can take accumulated assets?,” he said.
People in same-sex relationships are adopting their partners as enduring guardians to legally protect themselves. “I can give [my partner] power over my body, and whether I donate my superannuation but when it comes to us and what we own, I’m skeptical about what barriers are in place and what people can get their hands on.”
“The government wants equal share of my taxes and rates, and my partner’s taxes and rates. I pay staff and I run a business but I can’t get married.”
Slater and Gordon practice group leader Heather McKinnon said it was important for same-sex couples to be clear about their wishes in their wills.
“If they make a will, it’s covered by succession laws,” she said.
“There’s a lot of history of families and partners disputing how long relationships have been in existence,” Ms McKinnon said.
“You’ll often get siblings saying they were housemates.”
Ms McKinnon said this dispute was more complex for older same-sex couples.
“It’s a bit greyer where they may not have lived as public a life because of homophobia in Australia,” she said.
A binding death nomination form for superannuation is important for same-sex couples.
Ms McKinnon said this was often overlooked by younger same-sex couples.
These legal protections have assisted many same-sex couples in Australia.
THE CULTURAL SHIFT
According to the Bureau of Statistics, same-sex couples account for 0.9 per cent of all couples in Australia with an estimated 48,000 couples in Australia in June 2015.
“As the culture changes, the legal system is slower to catch up,” Ms McKinnon said.
“In estate law, it’s slower and more conservative to recognise [the culture] because of the family’s nature to recognise the relationship.”
Ms McKinnon said a change in the marriage law would be beneficial for many same-sex couples, particularly older couples.
“They have lived through an awful history of homophobia,” she said.
“[A yes vote will] say your fellow Australians accept you.”
All survey results for the Australian marriage law postal survey should be received by September 25.
Results will be published on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website on November 15.
SUPPORT IN THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
In a poll on the Southern Highland News website recently, 260 people shared how they intended to vote in the survey.
About 72 per cent of people voted yes, 22.31 per cent voted no and five per cent said they were undecided.
Wedding professionals and marriage equality supporters came out in support of same-sex marriage at a networking event at The Mill on Tuesday.
Civil celebrant Nina de Borde said the group wanted to support the move towards marriage equality.
“The way I look at it, marriage means many things to many cultures,” she said.
“It’s been an evolving, progressive institution.”
Ms de Borde said the group hoped to see a change to the marriage act for the benefit of same-sex couples.
“We want people to vote yes,” she said.
“We’re asking people to vote with their hearts.”