This week, Peter Fraser and his partner Gordon Stevenson will become the first same-sex couple to get married here in Sydney.
As of Friday, June 27, same-sex couples living in Australia will be able to marry in British consulates in Sydney and Canberra as long as one partner holds British citizenship. Following the British High Commission’s announcement that British marriage equality laws would extend to British nationals living overseas, Peter and Gordon were the first couple to register to marry in Sydney’s British consulate.
“It’s a real privilege to be the first same-sex couple to be married here in Australia and it’s great that the British government’s laws have changed to include citizens living in other countries,” Mr Fraser said.
Friday’s introduction of same-sex marriages in British consulates will mean that many Australians will no longer have to travel overseas to get married.
“It may be nineteen years too late, but we are now able to stand up in front of our friends and family in the city we live in and the city we love and have our relationship acknowledged.”
Rodney Croome, national director of Marriage Equality Australia and gay rights activist, believes that Friday’s wedding will impact the marriage equality debate here in Australia.
“What these weddings will show is that same-sex marriages can take place in this country without the sky falling in,” Mr Croome said.
“It will also show that marriage reform can occur under conservative governments, as we have seen in Britain and New Zealand. It shows that we have fallen behind some of our closest allies in terms of marriage equality”.
Dr. Mehreen Faruqi MLC of the NSW Greens also believes that the impact of this development will be felt within Australia’s marriage reform debate.
“Same sex couples marrying under foreign law in Australian cities is an important symbolic step forward for marriage equality in Australia.”
“I have no doubt it will feed into the broader campaign, as the couples and their families participate in and bear witness to the ceremonies.”
The marriages that take place in the British consulates in Sydney and Canberra beginning this Friday will not be recognised in Australian jurisdictions.
“The happiness of these marriages will be tinged with the sadness of knowing that as soon as the couples step back onto Australian soil, their marriages count for nothing,” Mr Croome said.
“I am hopeful that parliamentarians will understand that the failure of Australia to recognize these marriages is a slight against not only the couples themselves but a slight against the countries that married them.”
Mr Fraser believes that these marriages will encourage a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage reform.
“This will pave the way for a free vote within the current government,” said Mr Fraser.
NSW Premier Mike Baird told City News that he was in support of a conscience vote on marriage reform.
“Like Barry O’Farrell, I am a supporter of a conscience vote on this issue.”
In the meantime, couples such as Peter and Gordon are celebrating the significance of being able to marry within Australia.
“It takes away the stigma of being a second-class citizen here in Australia. He will not be my boyfriend or my partner but my husband, and that makes all the difference. I just hope this is available to all Australians soon enough.”