When they were married in New York in 1998, Professor Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker-Phelps joked that they would become grandparents before they could marry in Australia.
Now, almost 20 years later, the high-profile couple have a beautiful grandson, and are still waiting for the Australian government to acknowledge their union.
In an intimate interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, the family opens up about why love is more important than biology and the arrival of baby Billy whose joyous birth marked the realisation of their wistful wedding-day joke.
“We said we’ll be grandparents before marriage equality is accepted in Australia … and we were right,” Jackie tells The Weekly.
Kerryn, one of Australia’s most respected doctors and also the Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney, has built a loving and tight-knit family unit with Jackie.
They opened up about the magic moment they discovered they would be grandmothers when their daughter Jaime popped into their home with an ultrasound picture.
“I said, ‘Whose is that?’” says Jackie. “And Jaime said, ‘Ah, it’s your grandchild!’, and we both burst into tears.”
Jaime is Kerryn’s daughter with her former husband, Michael Fronzek, and since the age of 16 gained Jackie as her parent also. “I’ve been around for a lot more than half of Jaime’s life and absolutely I feel like her mother,” says Jackie
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When Jaime’s husband Rob first met the family he said he personally didn’t know any family like the Stricker-Phelps clan.
“I realised everyone’s the same and everyone falls in love with whoever they fall in love with and that’s the way it is,” he says.
Their adopted daughter Gabi Stricker-Phelps, who joined the family at age nine, says the fact her two “supermums” cannot legally wed is “inequality on so many levels.”
“Seeing my parents as they are, I wouldn’t for a second think they shouldn’t have the right to marry in this country,” she says.
“My favourite saying is biology is overrated.”
A view which Jackie shares: “I don’t ever think biology is important. It’s more about the raising and the being there,” she says.
The story of this remarkable family appears in this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly, on sale now.