HER parents voted ‘No’ in last years same-sex marriage postal vote. Her brother, Tony Abbott, actively campaigned against it.
But when Christine Forster married long-time partner Virginia Edwards last Friday, they were there to join the celebrations.
The only sad note was Christine wishing her father, Dick Abbott, who passed away just before Christmas, could have been there to celebrate.
But there were times that both the wedding — and having her family in attendance — seemed impossible, Christine told ABC’s Australian Story on Monday.
While some wonder how the former PM could have the hide to fight so hard against his sister having the right to marry, then front at the wedding., the nuptials showed not even diametrically-opposed views could overcome, in the end, the family bonds of the Abbotts, Christine and Virginia revealed.
“Tony and I, I hope, we have been able to demonstrate that even though we have diametrically opposed views, and sometimes one or the other might say something that really pisses the other off, ultimately you keep it respectful, you still love each other, you’re still family. And it’s not any reason to have a cataclysmic bust-up,” Christine said.
Even amid the regret for the heartbreak their journey to the altar had caused, Australian Story revealed lighter times: like how Tony was looking forward to a wedding he hadn’t yet been invited to.
And how mum, Fay, “resurrected” a navy dress for the wedding she’d bought “because I might have needed it for the Liberal party, before Tony got the knife”.
TONY ALMOST DIDN’T GET AN INVITE
Watching footage off Abbott in the wake of the success of the Yes vote, in which Tony said: “I certainly don’t pretend to be an overnight convert to support the same sex marriage, but I am looking forward to attending the marriage of my sister Christine to her partner, Virginia.”. Christine was quick on the draw.
“And I thought that was a bit presumptuous. Um, you haven’t got your invitation yet, buddy,” she said.
“But I expect him to be there.”
It may have been touch and go at some times of the debate, but Christine revealed Abbott was always on the invite list.
In fact, as two families reeled from the bombshell of both women breaking up their marriages to be with each other, it was Tony and wife Margie who had been the first to welcome the Christine and Virginia into their home.
But the show revealed the pair’s journey was far from plain sailing.
CRACKS IN PERFECT MARRIAGE
FROM the outside, Christine Forster’s marriage looked perfect.
Husband, kids, love, great family, and friends.
Christine was the linchpin — the busy mum, The one who had her parents and grandparents over for dinner every Sunday.
Christine’s sister, Pip thought the marriage was “ideal”.
Until the bombshell.
In 2008, Christine and Virginia, both married, with six kids between them, met dropping their sons off at daycare.
The clicked, and quickly became best friends.
And then, they realised it was something more.
“I fell in love with her and I fell hard,” said Christine, who told Australian Story she had come to the “slow realisation” in her 30s that she was sexually attracted to women.
“It hit me like a tonne of bricks and it was terrifying. It was something I just couldn’t control, it was such an overwhelming emotion.”
“If I’d grown up in a bohemian environment, I probably would’ve come out at the age of 18 or 19, but I grew up in a family where your values were Menzies-era.
“You couldn’t consider being gay, that wasn’t part of our world.”
The two women wrestled with their realisation, and the devastating impact it would have on far more than just them.
They had an affair, then broke it off.
A year later they did the unthinkable.
“We had six children and two families that were going to be catastrophically blown off the planet by Christine and I doing what we needed to do, and that was to be together,” Virginia told Australian Story.
They announced they were each leaving the marriages. They’d met someone else. And they were gay.
“If I could have my time over again, I would have done many things differently. I made mistake, after mistake, after mistake which, I know, has hurt many of the people involved and … I really regret that,” Christine said.
“The girls were in their teens and that’s a particularly sensitive period for any girl. Here they are the girls are just getting to the point in their lives where they need their mum the most.
“And I was just caught up in something that, you know, a maelstrom of, of emotion and, and, and having to deal with, you know, the, this major crisis of my own. And I know that I wasn’t there for them when they, when they needed me.”
To say her parents were shocked was “and understatement”.
“We had had marriage breakdowns in my family. My sister Pip’s marriage had ended, and that didn’t cause the seismic ructions that the end of my marriage did,” Christine said.
“Dad particularly expressed his unhappiness with what was happening.”
Virginia’s daughter hated Christine for the first year — “she was a friend that had been a part of the family and that had come in and almost taken my mum from my dad.”.
She’s says she softened when she saw the strength of the pair’s love.
Long before last year’s same-sex marriage debate, Christine and Tony had clashed publicly on the issue.
“Tony’s version of marriage is not the same as mine. End of story,” Christine said.
Yet Tony and wife Margie “got their heads around the whole bombshell probably quicker than any other members of my family,” Christine said.
They were first to welcome the new couple into their home.
But as the same-sex marriage debate gathered force, the brother and sisters’ diametrically opposed views were increasingly played out in public.
“And we had these cycles of hope and then let down, hope and then let down in terms of political outcomes,” Christine said.
“And most of those let downs were due to my brother, to be honest.
“We’d all build up our hopes that we were going to get a conscience vote, and then Tony would kibosh it.”
When Tony questioned the role of her and Virginia as parents during a radio interview, Virginia had had enough.
She pulled him aside, furiously, privately.
“It’s not okay to use your sister as a political football,” she told him.
Tony told Australian Story it was“very sad, what happened”.
“But in the end, everyone has to accept that for Chris, things changed, and we have to adjust accordingly. We don’t have to agree with everyone, even our closest friends, even family members,” he said.
“I accept that people do disagree. It doesn’t mean they don’t like each other. It doesn’t mean they can’t love each other. We don’t have to agree with everyone, even our closest friends, even family members.”
As he walked into the wedding last week, he said he was looking forward to welcoming his sister-in-law to the family.