Jessica and Amanda Gould were married in New Zealand three months ago, but are still fighting for their relationship to be seen as legitimate. The couple, who are actually from Australia, got married in New Zealand because same-gender marriage is still illegal in their home country.
Jessica changed her last name to match Amanda's after the wedding, which according to the laws in Australia entitled her to exchange her passport with one registered in her new name for free.
Yet, when she went to the Australian Passport Office (APO), Gould was told that her marriage didn't count — and therefore she could not get a new passport.
"When someone says to you, we don't recognise your marriage and we don't recognise your relationship either, it's devastating," Gould told BuzzFeed News.
After being told that her marriage didn't entitle her to a new passport, Gould made an appointment to get a new passport as a "de facto" couple, which seems similar to an American common law marriage.
When Gould gave proof that her relationship counted as de facto, a staff member at the APO told her he'd need to get in touch with his manager.
"He then told me that he needed to speak with his manager, as he doesn’t get a lot of 'these' and was under the impression that my fee wouldn’t be waived," she told BuzzFeed.
When he came back, he told her that her relationship didn't count as a marriage or as de facto.
"He showed zero empathy towards me; did not treat me as a human; and kept re-enforcing that this was the policy, even though at this point I was tearing up and almost crying," Gould told BuzzFeed.
While Gould did eventually get her free passport from another manager at the APO, who apologized and told her that she was, in fact, entitled to the passport, she told BuzzFeed that the whole experience made her furious and that it was proof of how legalizing same-gender marriage could benefit LGBTQ couples.
At least one person in the comments agrees. "This is why I get so angry when (mostly straight, unfortunately) people say that marriage is just a piece of paper so it doesn't really matter if same sex marriage is legalised," one person wrote. "Yes, it does. Legally, politically, economically, socially, culturally, it very clearly does matter."
The same argument that marriage is not an important fight is sometimes made in the queer community. While we can see their point — there are plenty of life-or-death things we should be focusing on, like LGBTQ youth homelessness, anti-discrimination laws, healthcare rights for trans and gender non-conforming people, and more — Gould's story shows that marriage equality is an important fight and, unfortunately, one that's still ongoing in many parts of the world.