Same sex couples rush into marriage before High Court decision
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Same sex couples rush into marriage before High Court decision

Same-sex marriage was all the rage in the national capital.

''Ladies and gentlemen,'' announced wedding celebrant Roger Munston, ''I have the great privilege of introducing to you Chris and Ivan, husband and husband.''

And with that, Chris Teoh and Ivan Hinton were wed … for the second time.

Partners for 11 years, they had married in Canada five years ago.

Saturday was, however, the first opportunity they and many other same-sex couples had to celebrate their marriage in Australia.

Tanya and Shar McKinlay travelled from Melbourne to marry at the Old Parliament House Rose Garden on Saturday.

Tanya and Shar McKinlay travelled from Melbourne to marry at the Old Parliament House Rose Garden on Saturday.

Photo: Rohan Thomson
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They walked separately, hand in hand with their parents, through the courtyard of Old Parliament House to exchange vows and rings beneath a trellis of vines, a lone saxophone wailing a slow, soulful version of Over The Rainbow.

When guests in the courtyard, some of whom had taken their own vows earlier in the day, were asked to support Chris and Ivan's ''great journey together'', the old place echoed to a communal bellow of ''We do!''

Rodney Croombe, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, chose a pointed reading from Nelson Mandela: ''I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom. Just as surely I am not free when my freedom is taken away from me.''

Canberra, bathed in early summer sunshine, was the setting for a frolic of same-sex marriages on Saturday. But the newfound freedom of brides and brides, husbands and husbands, may be short.

Ulises Garcia and Craig Berry, left, feel naked without the rings they exchanged in a civil partnership two years ago.

Ulises Garcia and Craig Berry, left, feel naked without the rings they exchanged in a civil partnership two years ago.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The matrimonials, made possible under the ACT's Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Marriage Act 2013, are taking place in the lee of a High Court challenge by the federal government.

The case began last week, but the court will not rule until Thursday. The weddings were allowed to proceed in the absence of any application for an injunction while the justices ponder their decision.

Three rulings are possible: the High Court could decide the ACT's legislation is invalid, effectively nullifying the weekend's burst of marriage equality; it could rule the ACT is within its rights to allow same-sex marriage, thus legally blessing the nuptials; or it could require further ''tidying up'' of the legislation to give the matter certainty.

As many as 40 couples decided they could not wait for the High Court. The first weddings began just after midnight and ceremonies were held across the city's gardens and parks through the morning, afternoon and evening.

Hayley Wilson and Samantha Hermes were married at 7.30am in the garden of celebrant Judy Aulich, becoming the first women to be legally married in Australia.

''It's a beautiful day and I'm marrying my best friend,'' said Samantha, shrugging away concerns about the pending court decision. ''It's a huge day for Canberra and for all of Australia.''

Tanya and Shar McKinlay travelled from Melbourne to marry at the Old Parliament House Rose Garden on Saturday.

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They rushed to pull the day together in three weeks, including buying their gowns.

Tanya, a stay-at-home mother, and Shar, a scientist, said they married to share their lives, celebrate with family and gain recognition from society.

Tony Wright

Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald

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