Jackie Wood (left) and Noeleen Ferguson of Goonellabah have been together for twenty five years and share a daughter. They would marry ‘in a split second’ if the law allowed it.
Jackie Wood (left) and Noeleen Ferguson of Goonellabah have been together for twenty five years and share a daughter. They would marry ‘in a split second’ if the law allowed it. Cathy Adams

Same sex marriage blues

JACKIE Wood, 47, would marry her partner Noeleen Ferguson, 45, in a "split second" if same-sex marriage was legal in Australia.

The couple from Goonellabah have been in a relationship for 25 years.

"We've been wanting to do it for about 10 or 15 years now because we have a 14-year-old girl and I'd like to make it official," said Ms Wood.

While many believe marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman, Ms Ferguson said for her it's an issue of equality.

"It doesn't matter who is in love, they should still have the opportunity," she said.

"If they want to be in a committed relationship and if they want a certificate to say so, then they should have that chance."

Ms Ferguson experi- enced homophobia growing up in Nyngan near Dubbo.

"Maybe it (same-sex marriage) would change things because then I would feel like everybody is a bit more accepted," she said.

"I do find it's pretty well accepted here, but where I come from originally in a smaller country town, I was basically run out."

The Labor party will vote on whether to reverse its ban on same-sex marriage at its National Conference on December 3.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and other power brokers within Labor's right favour a conscience vote.

But Angela Pollard of the activist group Equal Love said a conscience vote could divide the party.

"What will happen is the right will vote against it, the left will vote for it and if it goes to Parliament it will be lost," she said.

"I don't understand why you would need a conscience vote on this because it's really about anti-discrimination.

"There wasn't a conscience vote to get rid of discrimination in employment or accommodation, so why marriage?"

Page MP Janelle Saffin is a member of Labor's left faction.

Her media spokesperson, Lee Duncan, said Ms Saffin believes there will probably be a change in the policy through the National ALP Conference.

"She can understand why some people think it should be a conscience vote, but she thinks it should be discussed through a policy framework," she said.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot seems likely to vote with other members of Labor's right:

"Although I will not pre-empt the outcome of the Labor Party's national conference, I support the Prime Minister's call to allow a conscience vote," she said.



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