SAT/SHD NEWS: gay marriage. (L-R) Peter Bonsall-Boone and Peter de Waal, gay couple who marched in first Mardi Gras. Bonsall-Boone is very ill with cancer and will likely die in coming weeks. It was his last wish to marry the man he has loved all his life and it is now clear that wish won’t come true. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 7th April 2017. Photo: Edwina PicklesWhen Peter de Waal and Peter Bonsall-Boone went on their first date in the spring of 1966, they never conceived they might one day tie the knot. They fought to have homosexuality struck off the Crimes Act and removed from the manual of mental illnesses but marriage was on nobody’s mind.
“It was just beyond our imagination that the subject would ever be broached,” says Mr Bonsall-Boone, known as Bon.
In their 50 years together, the two Peters have seen almost every barrier of discrimination against them collapse. But the last one – the one that seemed impossible to the two Balmain boys all their lives – now sits tantalisingly close and yet tragically out of reach.
Bon, 78, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer two years ago that has proven impenetrable to two rounds of chemotherapy and other drugs. He is already on borrowed time, having been given months to live in November, and is now preparing to die without his last wish being granted.
“For us, it’s a really urgent matter,” says Mr de Waal. “We’ve been second-class citizens for all of the 50 years we’ve been together. I would feel pretty awful if Bon were to die as a second-class citizen.”
The two men say they haven’t given up hope of the winds changing in Canberra and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull moving to allow a free vote on same-sex marriage but they concede it seems ever more unlikely.
Mooted attempts to bring the issue to the fore within the Liberal Party have twice been abandoned this year, including a proposed letter-of-demand to the PM that would have been signed by upwards of a dozen MPs.
Supportive Liberal MPs stress the timing has to be right for any push. But for couples like Peter and Bon, time is fast running out.
“In looking forward to dying, one of my sorrows is that I’m not taking Peter with me,” Bon says in a video to be published by the Equality Campaign this week. “I am going to miss him like crazy. Marriage for Peter and me would be a great sort of fulfillment of many years of association and love.”
Mr Turnbull and other ministers who support marriage equality have frequently argued gay weddings would already be taking place if the Labor opposition (plus Greens and crossbenchers) had not blocked the government’s planned plebiscite on the issue, which had been slated for February 11.
But Peter and Bon are far from bitter about the plebiscite’s demise. Having been at the forefront of the gay rights movement for 50 years, including the famous 1978 protest that became the Sydney Mardi Gras, they say they have a reasonable idea of the “hate and misinformation” that would accompany a public campaign.
“The plebiscite, to us, was absolutely horrific,” Peter says. “We’ve lived through all those eras and we know what it is like.”
Instead, the two men are pinning their hopes on a change of heart.
“It should just be waived straight through,” says Bon. “It is so insignificant on the whole, but absolutely vital to people like us.”
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