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'I’m glad I’ve lived this long to see it': At 98, Neville Wills can finally marry the love of his life

In the Greenwich unit where he has lived since 1961, Neville Wills is in high spirits. The cheeky 98-year-old has a wedding to plan.

Mr Wills and his partner Ian Fenwicke have been together 39 years - just days ago marking the anniversary of their first meeting at an ebullient breezy Beverly Hills luncheon in 1978.

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"We've virtually been together ever since," says Mr Fenwicke, 74.

The pair have been successful professionals - Mr Wills a university professor, Mr Fenwicke a commercial accountant - and enjoyed lives largely free from discrimination and hate. But they could not, until today, cement their lifelong partnership with marriage.

Now, after Parliament finally passed same-sex marriage into law, the two men are eyeing a sunny Sydney wedding at their friend's apartment in Darling Point - because it "sounds more salubrious" than Greenwich, jokes Mr Wills.

The self-described "ancient part" of the duo says he's looking forward to a "jolly nice cocktail hour" with about 20 friends. "I think it's marvellous. I'm glad I've lived this long to see it. We can be legitimate after today."


Mr Wills speaks of the day he met Mr Fenwicke with a fondness that can't be beaten back by time. "I'd been lonely, very lonely - looked after my mother until she died," he says. "In that sense he was filling a gap in my life." He was attracted to the younger man's "quiet personality, his warm smile", and noted they "shared a good bit of style".

Over their subsequent decades together, they watched as Neville Wran decriminalised homosexuality in 1984, and as state and federal governments progressively erased discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people.

In 1978, says Mr Fenwicke, marriage was something "you just wouldn't imagine". "It has been a long road and it's just astounding that it has finally been achieved," he says. "But it's disappointing that we've been so slow compared to most other advanced democratic countries."

It's a disappointment the men share but don't intend to dwell on. They are also proud of the role their local parliamentarian, the Liberal Party's Trent Zimmerman, played in the political push for same-sex marriage in Canberra. And when it came time to speak on the bill in Parliament, it was to Neville and Ian that Mr Zimmerman's thoughts turned.

"They have loved, honoured, comforted and protected each other and will do so as long as they both shall live," he told the chamber. "Their hopes and aspirations reflect the importance of marriage in our society for so many people yet denied to some simply because of their sexuality."

For Mr Wills, the upcoming wedding is not the only big event on the horizon - there's also his 100th birthday. The way he sees it, ageing really is a laughing matter. "I might even live to get a telegram from the Duke of Edinburgh," he says.