We Asked A Couple Of San Francisco Locals What Marriage Equality Actually Looks Like

Brought to you by SKYY Vodka

In support of Marriage Equality in Australia, SKYY® Vodka has partnered with Joel Creasey and just.equal to launch the #CheerstoEquality campaign.

Here in Australia, there is much debate over whether or not same-sex marriage should be legislated now, or inevitably fairly soon; whether it should be done via parliament or via some other complicated, expensive and non-legally-binding plebiscite.

What often gets overlooked is the fact that marriage affects people’s lives in fundamental ways, and that many other countries have embraced marriage equality without it seemingly having done any harm whatsoever.

Take the United States – specifically, the legendarily LGBTIQ-friendly city of San Francisco. The city was instrumental in taking the fight for marriage equality from dream to legal reality, thanks in no small part to the city’s former mayor (and now Californian vice-Governor) Gavin Newsom. We talked to a couple of LGBT locals to get a sense of what marriage equality looks like in reality, and how it affected their lives.

Marriage Equality In San Francisco Helped Further LGBT Rights Nationwide

“It’s fun to be able to say that same-sex marriage kind of started in San Francisco with Mayor Gavin Newsom,” says proud resident Derek Rushin, who recently married his partner, Robert. “It really started the movement and got us on track to federal marriage equality.”

Despite the current political climate, it’s hard to imagine any federal laws repealing gay marriage.

“Same-sex marriage hasn’t really changed San Francisco, other than the strong sense of pride we have,” Rushin says. “I think it has changed the US for better and for worse: in red [conservative/Republican] areas, it might have energised religious intolerance of LGBT communities, and increased hate crimes. And then in some other areas, it might have helped things like LGBT workplace protections progress a little faster.”

“Despite the current political climate, it’s hard to imagine any federal laws repealing gay marriage as it stands today,” says fellow San Francisco resident Bob Fleshman, who married his husband in 2014.

Bob and Bryan wedding ceremony

Photo: Bob Fleshman/Supplied

Same-Sex Marriage Boils Down To Civil Rights

For both Bob and Derek, the issue of marriage equality was a matter of civil rights.

“It’s frustrating when your country doesn’t view you as equal to other countrymen and women on all levels, particularly for someone like me who has served the country in uniform during a time of war,” Fleshman says. “It’s a matter of fairness and slowly tearing down the walls of bigotry.”

I feel socially safer knowing that my marriage is just as recognised and ‘sound’ as a heterosexual marriage.

“I feel socially safer knowing that my marriage is just as recognised and ‘sound’ as a heterosexual marriage,” Rushin says. “It’s knowing that when I travel to ‘red’ areas of the US, I have the same rights as I do in progressive California.”

But Marriage Equality Has A Huge Impact On Everyday Life, Too

Both men are quick to point out that legal recognition of their marriages isn’t purely about abstract concepts of civil rights, but had immediate and practical effects on their lives.

Photo: Bob Fleshman/Supplied

“There are a range of protections [included with marriage equality], from hospital visitation, property rights, social security benefits, and so on,” Fleshman says. “Prior to 2015 when marriage equality went into effect nationwide, I could’ve been denied access to my partner in a hospital, denied insurance benefits or denied social security benefits.”

Having full marriage rights helps society understand my relationship more.

“We file taxes jointly now – whether that’s a good or bad thing who knows!” says Rushin. “It has been easier to buy a house together as a married couple. I am able to be on my husband’s health insurance plan through his job, and Robert is named as my financial beneficiary should something happen to me.”

“And this might sound weird, but when you don’t have the legal right to marry by our governments it allows ignorance and bigotry to flourish, which increases hate crimes and violence against LGBT communities. It gives the opposition fuel for hatred. So having full marriage rights helps society understand my relationship more.”

The Benefits Of Marriage Equality Go Way Beyond Marriage Itself

And it’s those sorts of intangible benefits that are perhaps hardest to quantify, but most meaningful on an individual level. As Rushin explains, having the same rights as his fellow citizens has had a positive psychological impact on him. “Knowing that my civil and marital rights are secure has allowed me to be my authentic self every day, personally and professionally,” he says.

Knowing our country viewed our relationship as equal was paramount.

“Knowing our country viewed our relationship as equal was paramount. Freedom, justice, liberty for all, or some? That’s the question this country has debated for decades. Seeing couples line up immediately outside of City Hall to begin marrying was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever witnessed,” Fleshman says. “Love is love.”

“Some gay friends we know say they don’t really need ‘marriage’ to feel validated – and sure, maybe that’s the case,” Rushin says. “But being able to introduce my ‘husband’ in an otherwise-heterosexual social setting is a pretty cool thing.”


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons


Have your say and toast to the spirit of love in Australia with SKYY Vodka so that one day we can all #CheerstoEquality. Make your voice count here.