Lawson resident and editor of the Pink Mountains website Kevin Hardwick is “very hopeful” the inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 will recommend in favour of same-sex marriage.
The inquiry, which is currently examining the legal and technical aspects of the Marriage Bills which seek to legalise same-sex marriage, held a public hearing in Sydney on April 12.
Mr Hardwick, who has campaigned for gay rights for 30 years and recently co-ordinated a Blue Mountains same-sex marriage petition, believes marriage discrimination is the last major hurdle to overcome in the acquisition of legal equality for gay and lesbian Australians.
“I think many of us feel that we are still considered second class citizens until we can get equal [marriage] rights,” he said.
“If gay marriage were legalised then homophobic attitudes would eventually disappear.”
While the Baby Boomers fought for women’s equality in the 1970s, Mr Hardwick said today’s younger generations were at the forefront of campaigning for equal marriage rights which he called a “young person’s movement”.
Mr Hardwick said that while many older gay and lesbian people were “ambivalent” about same-sex marriage, young gays and lesbians tended to believe marriage equality would give them a sense of recognition and social inclusion.
“I have been to a few [marriage equality] protests and rallies in Sydney and I would say that more than 80 per cent of the crowds were people 30 years or under,” he said.
Mr Hardwick and his partner of more than 42 years, Glen Williams, are fearful about what the future holds for their relationship as they enter old age, and long for the legal security that marriage can bring.
“In thinking of old age we are a bit worried [about] the treatment gay and lesbian people are getting in some nursing homes,” he said.
When asked whether he and Mr Williams would tie the knot if same-sex marriage were legalised, Mr Hardwick said it was on the cards. Same-sex marriage aside, Mr Hardwick feels there are other hurdles to overcome for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and would like to see anti-discrimination laws tighten to include religious organisations, but added he did not think churches should be made to marry same-sex couples.
“There’s a lot of silence about that [the anti-discrimination laws]; it needs to be discussed more,” he said.
Mr Williams taught at a Catholic school before he retired. Mr Hardwick said he never featured in any of Mr Williams’ conversations with colleagues as Mr Williams was fearful of being dismissed.
“My partner always worried that someone would say something at school and he would lose his job and that was always at the back of his mind,” he said.
The Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 is expected to table its report on June 18.