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Friday, June 17, 2011

Sandy & Louise: "We'll dine withJulia"

NSW couple Sandy Miller and Louise Bucke are all set for a great old chat with Prime Minister Julia Gillard over dinner at The Lodge soon.
“We don’t want her to feel threatened or bombarded, we just want her to hear our story,” Sandy tells Same Same.
As part of the Federal Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter Ball Charity Auction, high-profile lobby group Get Up! bid a mighty $31,100 from its marriage equality campaign fund to win the online auction for dinner with Julia.
All eyes are now on Sandy and Louise (pictured), who share their lives together with two children from Sandy’s previous marriage, Matthew (11) and Dylan (9), as they’ll soon join two other same-sex couples for a long-awaiting banter with our stubborn PM on the tricky topic of gay marriage.
“Our church just found out that we’re in the paper today,” a frazzled Sandy tells Same Same this morning. “We were a little bit concerned, but they have just sent their love and support. We’re very lucky – they’re wonderful.
“It’s an Anglican Church. We’ve had lots of debates with the Pastor, because the church doesn’t believe in gay marriages. But they have welcomed us, and been fantastic to our kids and supportive of us. The debates have been lovely. It’s an incredible community.”
Same Same: The news of your winning dinner bid has spread like wildfire. How are you feeling, at the centre of it all?
Sandy: Overwhelmed. Yesterday was just phone call after phone call – it was a tornado of interviews. Feeling really frazzled and not prepared, because I’ve never been in the media before. This morning I’m feeling a lot calmer and more relaxed.
How has the feedback been so far? All good, or have you experienced some negative comments?
The media has been extremely kind to us. The interviewers have been interested in the story and why it’s important to us. And they’ve been really gentle.
I’ve had a look online and heard some people’s comments – some have said ‘oh those poor children’ and ‘what are you putting them through?’ Some say marriage is just between a man and a woman – ‘what are you thinking?’ ‘Get your own word for it’.
But there’ve been a lot of phonecalls which have said ‘why not?’ ‘Why shouldn’t they get married? They love each other. Why would it bother you?’
So, why does being able to get married mean so much to you?
The two of us have known each other for a long time, but we’ve only been together for about four years and engaged for two. Now, I haven’t told many other people this, but Lou had cancer seven years ago. When she was 29 she was given six months to live.
I was her best friend. We pulled together and became very close. It just happened that my marriage was falling apart at that time and one thing led to another. Because of what was happening, we’re so sure of ourselves and what we wanted.
We’re ready to take the next step. I’ve always believed in marriage, and I’ve always believed that if you love someone and you want to spend the rest of your life with them, you make that commitment to each other, and so does she.
When I proposed to her two years ago, we wondered how long we were going to be engaged for! Dylan, our youngest, asks ‘when are you going to get married, mummies? When is Louise going to be officially our mum?’ I tell him that the government won’t let us get married. It’s been hard for them to digest.
How much to the kids understand about the situation?
We’ve been honest with them and told them that they might receive comments, people telling them ‘it’s a sin.’ ‘People are going to tell you marriage is between a man and a woman.’ ‘People are going to tell you that we’re not a family – and we don’t want you to get angry about it.’ You can’t force somebody to think the way you do.
People sometimes don’t understand the love and support we have around us, what wonderful children we have, and what a wonderful family we have. But I tell the kids ‘you need to know that, no matter what anyone says.’
They have been so brave. They’ve handled the teasing and stood up for themselves, and us.
When we were waiting on the results of the bid, we were already told that if we won, we would be one of the chosen couples. I had to broach it with my children, because my son is going to a Catholic high school next year. So I said to them – ‘this is what’s happened, I’d like to know what you’d like mummy to do about it, because this is going to affect your lives.’ My oldest [Matthew, 11] piped up straight away and said ‘mummy, we are so proud of you. We know how much you love us, and we love you, and we don’t care who knows it.’ And he said ‘if people tease and bully us, and make rude and ignorant comments, well they’re not our friends, are they?’
I’ve never been prouder. We cried. We just expected him to be a normal 11-year-old, who would turn around and say ‘what are my friends going to think?’ and be worried about himself, as he should be. And he wasn’t at all.
As for my youngest, the things he comes out with… don’t put the Prime Minister and him in a room together! He’s constantly saying the Prime Minister should be setting a good example and should know better. He’s so outspoken. If he meets somebody new he’ll ask ‘are you gay or straight?’ I say: ‘you can’t ask that!’ But if the people reply saying they’re gay, he’ll ask if they’ve got a partner or kids: ‘You can have kids you know, you just go to the doctor and they’ll help you – or you could adopt.’ [laughs] They are great kids.
How did you two meet originally?
We’ve known each other for about ten years. Lou was a nurse working with children and was also with a babysitting agency. We became close after a couple of years, best friends… and I would’ve never expected this to happen, but I’ve found the love of my life.
My ex-husband has been incredible. When I told him that Lou and I were together, he said ‘well honey, we’ve agreed to move on, we still care about each other, so whether it’s a man or a woman, it makes no difference. As long as you’re happy.’ So we’ve been very lucky.
We don’t know when and where your dinner with Julia will happen yet, but have you thought but about what you’ll say to her as you dine?
No, no date has been set yet. You know, I’m not a politician… I’m not really political, so I haven’t been thinking it over for a long time. We’re just going to go in and be ourselves.
We don’t want her to feel threatened or bombarded, we just want her to hear our story, and to see why it’s important to us and how it’s affected our children.
As long as the government doesn’t legalise gay marriages, it gives every person in the country permission to discriminate against us – because the government doesn’t really recognize our relationships. That in itself says it all.

A confirmed date for Sandy and Louise’s dinner with Julia Gillard at The Lodge is expected later this month.

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