I spent my youth campaigning for 'The Anti Nazi League'. I believe they are no longer in existence, but they taught me much about the suffering of other people. I was willing to give up a certain amount of my free time to help others, because it always helped me achieve my goals, involving giving up time helping others in need. It always seemed wrong to me, for others, no different to myself, to suffer at the hand of a minority of people, who's views, should remain firmly back in the Dark Ages!
As a gay man, I am a member of a minority group, especially so back then. Even now Gay people face pressures, that straight people do not. There is still stigma attached to who we are and the way we were born. Equality for us will only exist in its entirety when we can walk down the streets, hand in hand with our partner, without abuse, torment and extreme cases, violence.
Meeting Jason, in 1995, only made my commitment to equality even more important. Here we were, two young gay men, who had fallen in love. Under normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong with that. To make things even more difficult, Jason was an Australian National. Our relationship was not recognised by the then Government of John Major. There were no mechanisms in place to allow us to stay together, based on our relationship alone. So the road we would follow, would undoubtably be rocky and full of turmoil and difficulties.
For those first few years, we travelled too and fro between The UK and Australia. I tried to settle twice down under, but on each occasion, I was not ready to give up my life here in Britain. I found Australia quite alien in many respects. Although its Englishness was prevalent everywhere we lived, it was an Englishness that had been adapted for those who lived in a Country, that was so isolated from the rest of the World that it was frightening. I suppose I found the acceptance or not, of myself and Jason and our relationship, even harder to reconcile. People, especially in Western Australia, seemed like those of a bygone era in Britain. Rather like the 1950s, with 'Little Englander' attitudes, they were even less willing to accept us, who we were and our commitment to each other. It was an up hill struggle and we were loosing it every day we lived there. The Country was so perfect in many ways, yet the people who inhabited it were so backward thinking, it felt like an albatross around my neck at least.
When Tony Blair and Labour won the Election of 1997, myself and Jason were living in a new Suburb in Perth, very close to The Bush, well as close as damn it, without actually living in the middle of it. There was internet access, very intermittent, but enough for me to recognise, that Labour had won. At the time a Labour win was important. They had promised to recognise our relationship in their Manifesto, which I had read thoroughly. Within days of their win, we were on route back to The UK, where we hoped our lives would become, just like any other. Normal in the eyes of the law, and finally we would have the stability, we had lacked over the last two years.
How wrong could we be. This was the beginning of a difficult path to recognition and acceptance, but a path, we had to take. We really had fallen in love, from day one. Our life together was the most important aspiration to our happiness. Nothing else mattered, we would do anything to stay with one another. During those first few years, although we were from different parts of then World, we spent no more than a week apart from one another. Being close was important. The will power and motivation, keeping us together as a couple was so visible and recognisable, that it gave others, our friends the realisation that we were made for each other and nothing would break us apart. They were able and willing to give us full, unconditional and true support, pushing us further and further down that rock road to equality.
There was an inevitable waiting period, before new statutes were bought to book and a new, as yet untried and tested Act was voted into law. For us it was a time of limbo. Jason in effect became stateless. He was unable to leave The Country and unable to work. Every day that passed, became a day of nail biting anguish. Would Jason be issued with a deportation order, would he be forced to leave the Country and would everything we had worked so hard to avoid, come crashing down on us, finally parting us for good.
We spoke to our MP, our case was brought up in Parliament and details of our partnership became ever more scrutinised. We contacted over a hundred Members of Parliament, all of whom related to our case in some way. Letters of support were given by the great and the good at the time. The most heartfelt letters, came from the most unlikely MP's. I remember a truly beautiful piece of prose from Edwina Curry MP and Sir Peter Lloyd MP, couldn't not have been more supportive. I was surprised by their words, but recognise their contribution in keeping myself and Jason, firmly together as a couple. We were battling every day, with lack of money and stress, but each persons words of support just gave us that impetus we needed to ensure our survival.
We were coming very close to the end of our time together, as MP's debated the pro's and con's of this new Act in Parliament. Jason was told to leave the Country on two separate occasions. In a last ditch attempt, we employed a Barrister, to speak on our behalf at the Home Office. We demanded a Judicial Review into our case. In reality, we knew it was hopeless, it was just another mechanism in law, to stop us being parted. It bought us time when we needed it most.
In the end, when Jason's Deportation Order finally arrived, it was our MP, The Rt Hon John Denham MP, who stopped the order from being enacted. Shortly afterwards, the new Act regarding 'De Facto Relationships' was enacted into law and we were finally allowed to remain together here in The UK. We instructed Solicitors in London to put our case to The Home Office, and after a tense wait, we were finally allowed to remain together as a couple. After five years of waiting, Jason was granted 'Indefinite Leave to Remain', in The UK, in 2000. Finally a stamp on his passport, allowed us to create some form of stability. The initial restrictions were still hard to stomach, but our life together was important enough for both of us to forgo a career.
Those first five years of our life together really cemented Jason's and my fate together. We fought harder than you will ever believe to stay together. We took everything that was thrown at us, and more. We argued and fought with each other. I shouted and screamed, louder and louder. We suffered untold hardships, but the more that was thrown our way, the stronger we became!
When I look at my life today and the struggles we are facing. Hardships through illness and our life in limbo, it feels very much like our early days together. We battled then, as we battle now. Every day that passes makes us stronger and every voice of support we receive, serves to motivate and encourage us on, towards the end. We will make it, we will live life again. We will be battered, bruised, older and more frail than we ever have been, compared to 1995, but whatever the consequences, we will have won, stayed together and restarted a life, put on hold, all those years ago!
Peace and Love!