What fifth-generation dairy farmer Jason Smith wants is something most people take for granted – to be able to marry the person he loves.
The Simpson resident said legalising marriage between same-sex couples would go a long way to breaking down prejudice and hurdles LGBTI people still face in Australia.
“It’s another barrier to young gay people feeling okay,” he said.
Mr Smith, who grew up in Gunbower in northern Victoria and moved to the south-west two years ago, said he was the first gay person he knew of in his community. He came out 11 years ago.
“When I first got a partner – we were together for eight years – when he first came to town there were people who wouldn’t shake his hand and stuff like that,” Mr Smith said. “It was just a matter of proving that there’s no difference and we were just farmers like everyone else.”
Since he opened up about being gay, the passionate farmer has been a fierce advocate for marriage equality, travelling to Canberra to address a National Party meeting, appearing in television ads and reaching out to support other LGBTI people in Australia’s dairy industry.
“It will happen, but I just can’t get over how long it’s taking, and how many people need to be hurt and partners die without that ability to marry the person they’ve been with for 50 years,” Mr Smith said.
He praised Warrnambool City Council for passing a motion supporting marriage equality, and pointed to the way prejudice negatively affects young LGBTI people in regional and rural areas.
Mr Smith said many gay friends in the agriculture industry were not open about their sexuality.
The deeply personal issue has another painful facet for the young farmer.
His father is terminally ill, and he knows his dad will not live to see him marry someone he loves.
“Dad has been the hardest to come around – a strict Catholic fella – but he knows when people are important to me, they’re important to me,” he said. “He would love to have seen both his daughter and son get married to the people they love, and he’s not going to get that chance.”
I just can't get over how long it’s taking, and how many people need to be hurt and partners die without that ability to marry the person they’ve been with for 50 years.Jason Smith