Australia sees its first gay marriages
As soon as the ACT's marriage equality came into effect, gay couples began tying the knot in Canberra, with less than a week before the High Court's ruling on whether the laws are overturned.PT2M32S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2yxru 620 349 December 7, 2013
As most Australians were sleeping, Alan Wright and Joel Player were celebrating history with the nation's first same-sex wedding ceremonies held at one minute past midnight in Canberra.
The threat of the High Court striking down the ACT's same-sex marriage laws next week was to have been momentarily set aside as they exchanged vows and rejoiced with friends beneath the 55 bronze bells of the National Carillon at Lake Burley Griffin at 12.01am.
"To have it finally legalised, it's a big step for us in our relationship, so we're just wanting to get it done," Mr Player said.
First up: Joel Player and Alan Wright who were due to marry in Canberra at 12.01am on Saturday. Photo: Melissa Adams
Mr Wright, 34, said the decision to get married in the middle of the night was made not for a grab at history, but to fulfil the words of their celebrant Sharyn Gunn, who performed the couple's commitment ceremony - which they consider the start of their marriage - four years ago.
"She said the minute it becomes legal, you two are going to be the first I marry," he said.
Mr Player, 30, said he viewed each of the couples making their vows under the ACT's landmark marriage equality law this weekend as the first, but the couple had embraced the prominence of being "12.01" to promote the message of acceptance.
"We're doing it at midnight because that's what we want to do … but at the same time we took it in our stride to use it as a bit of marriage equality shining at the same time, and helping get the voice out there that we are no different," he said.
"It's a bloody giant leap forward for Australia."
As it turns out, the couple were to have had a share in the historic moment with at least one other pair - West Australian state politician Stephen Dawson and Dennis Liddelow - who were due to wed outside Parliament House at 12.01am.
Mr Wright and Mr Player are a photographer's delight, a friendly double act with broad smiles and a natural disposition to rib each other. But Saturday's recognition is a milestone in lives that have included hardship because of their sexuality.
The adoptive family of the Bathurst-raised Mr Wright rejected him after the 2009 commitment ceremony, and the location of Saturday's event was kept secret until late on Friday night - as a surprise for the 25-odd guests, but also to ensure any prospect of anti-gay marriage protesters could be avoided.
"We've been who we have been for 15 years - we've been through coming out, we've gone through the hate we've copped all our lives, and it was just this one time I didn't want the hate," Mr Player said.
The decade-long public battle for same-sex marriage laws has been marked by challenges at every turn, and the couple know on Thursday the High Court may rule the ACT has strayed beyond its powers, leaving the previous five days a high-water mark for recognition that has no guarantee of being repeated.
But approaching the event as a renewal of their vows - their language at the ceremony the same as four years ago, with references to ''partner'' simply replaced with ''husband'' - the Bruce residents said valuable momentum for national change had been gained.
"We're both optimistic either way - even if it does get overturned, we're happy enough and proud enough with each other and everyone in Australia following the story with us and watching other gay men and women get married - it's already powerful as it is," Mr Player said.