Eric Kerr grew up in a fairly normal, loving household with his brother and parents, but there was one key difference between him and other children – his parents both happened to be female.
As a child, young Eric did not know or feel any different.
But now as a 22-year-old, campaigning for Labor in the seat of Indi, his family life has led him to become an advocate for same-sex marriage.
“It’s partially what informs my opinions and why I feel strongly about it,” Eric said.
“Family’s the most important thing, first and foremost.”
His mums, Roslyn Kerr and Debra Brindley, have been together since 1980, with Debra moving from Sydney to Wodonga the next year so the two could start a life together.
It was not until 12 years later they decided to add children to that life.
Acceptance of lesbian couples was very different in 1993 and although Roslyn worked in the Albury health system, she was turned away by an IVF doctor who knew about her situation.
“I approached a local doctor and I was told that ‘your kind’ would not get IVF,” she said.
“I thought, how dare you assume ‘my kind’ anything.”
Roslyn desperately wanted children so she only saw one option.
“I then went to Canberra and because I was advanced in age and didn’t want to risk waiting, because I was 38, I actually lied to get in,” she said.
“I was glad I did.”
The doctors never questioned her story about a fake partner who had a condition she did not want passed onto the children, but could not be around because he was an interstate truck driver.
A decade later and much had changed, with same-sex couples starting to be accepted for IVF treatment in Albury.
Life also became easier for the Kerr family when it came time for the the product of Roslyn’s IVF – twin boys Jeremy and Eric – to start school in Wodonga.
Debra said she was nervous for the boys because the couple had generally only told family and friends about their relationship.
“It’s not as open as it is for the young ones now, times have changed,” she said.
“The first day at school for kindy was amazing because the kindy teacher gave me a big kiss and a hug because I delivered two of the children … right through school there was never any issue.”
Jeremy said he only had the occasional student at high school try to tease him about his mums, but both boys found their friends were mostly curious.
“If you had one or two who said something negative you’d have 100 who said ‘oh really, what’s that like?’,” Eric said.
“I never wished for anything different.”
Roslyn and Debra did not contemplate getting married themselves, but were right behind the work of their politician son.
Their home and cars were even adorned with Eric Kerr campaign posters.
“Back in those dim, dark days we really weren’t accepted anyway by the government of the day so we kept quiet about it most of the time,” Roslyn said.
“We’re proud of him standing up and speaking out for us.”
One of their proudest moments was learning Eric, at just 18, had been voted in as a Wodonga councillor.
He celebrated that day by going home for a family roast.
Councillors voted to support same-sex marriage in January last year, when Eric met two mums who had just started taking their children to school.
We’re proud of him standing up and speaking out for us.- Roslyn Kerr, mum of Wodonga councillor and Labor candidate for Indi, Eric Kerr
“I said to them that I went through it and I came out fine and that the majority of people were supportive back then,” he said. “That was really nice.”
The Labor candidate naturally developed a passion to fight for same-sex marriage both as a child of two mums and a young person with a sense of “what should be right socially”.
“I don’t think it’s the case that just because you’re in a gay/lesbian relationship that you need to get married,” he said.
“It’s about having that option and that right to choose.”
Eric’s Indi campaign included a view the upcoming plebiscite should be abandoned because it was unnecessary to change the law.
“If they don’t know what the community thinks by now … they have failed in their role,” he said.
“I think Bill (Shorten) and the team, me included, have picked up the game.”
Eric said he was disappointed by the decision of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had been on the record as a supporter of same-sex marriage.
He said he was not scared to call himself a progressive candidate vying for the conservative seat of Indi.
“I don’t shy away from the fact I view ‘conservative’ as a dirty word,” Eric said.
“If you want the best for your kids and the best for your community, maybe you should look at improving that and making sure it’s the best for them.
“Accepting OK? It certainly hasn’t got us anywhere.”
Comments around the plebiscite, such as head of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton referring to children of same-sex couples as another “stolen generation”, were particularly hurtful.
“It will allow people who want to preach hate and that’s why I brought the family into it,” Eric said.
Debra also felt discriminated against by the comments, despite knowing she and Roslyn were good parents.
“It’s no different really to anyone who’s raising a child, there’s no bible to tell you what to do,” she said.
“Love is the most important thing.”
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