The first-ever same-sex marriages are underway in Australia, just weeks after the nation's Parliament voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Because of Australian laws that require all couples to provide official notice of their plans to marry at least a month in advance of the nuptials, January 9 was the first day same-sex couples could get married.
To commemorate this special day—and demonstrate that they just couldn't wait for their unions to be recognized by legal marriage—couples across Australia married just minutes after midnight on January 9.
“It’s another way to show your love and appreciation of your partner in front of the people in your life,” said Craig Burns, a professional sprinter who married fellow athlete Luke Sullivan in a midnight ceremony in Tweed Heads.
Around the same time, in the city of Perth on the opposite coast, Kelly and Sam Pilgrim-Byrne married on the steps of the Western Australia state legislature. They've been together for 24 years.
“It was never anything we considered because it was never anything that was available to us, so we never had those dreams about what would our wedding look like, what would we do, who would we invite, where would it be," Kelly told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "We never, ever considered it because we never thought that it would happen in our lifetime.”
Amy Laker and Lauren Price were the first-ever same-sex couple to marry in Australia—because of a special exemption from the month-in-advance rule, they wed on December 16, 2017, just days after Parliament legalized same-sex marriage. "For us, being legally married is more about automatically being next of kin. This is my child's other mother, my wife," Laker said at the time.
Although these celebrations have been happy, emotional occasions for these couples and their families, change did not come without strife. In the months leading up to the landmark decision—which happened as a result of a popular vote—the rights and legitimacy of same-sex couples and gay Australians was questioned publicly and without restraint.
“The lies were egregious and harmful," wrote Rob Stott, a very active 'Yes' advocate, around the time the results were announced. "They called same-sex parents child abusers and said their children were a new Stolen Generation. They called us 'fascists' and said we were 'disordered.'”
Gillian Brady and Lisa Goldsmith held a backyard wedding in 2012, even though they weren't able to marry legally at the time. They disagreed with the concept of a postal vote for marriage equality, but still decided to celebrate the new legislation. The two were married in a midnight ceremony on January 9—and this time, it was accompanied by an official marriage license.
“For me it is a momentous occasion because from Tuesday I’ll be able to call her my wife,” Goldsmith said. “Everyone else can and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to."
Rebecca Hickson and Sarah Turnbull were fueled by the strife, marrying in spite of what Hickson described as a "horrible time" for her, Turnbull, and others across the country. They wed around midnight north of Sydney in coastal Newcastle, making history as one of the first lesbian couples to ever marry in Australia.
Zoe Nolan and Michelle Edwards married in a sunrise ceremony south of Brisbane in Point Danger. Their nuptials were captured via live stream, through a collaboration between Love Stories TV and Motion Art. The moment in the video (around 22:06) when their officiant yelled "Yay, marriage!" captures the excitement and significance of these ceremonies.
Lainey Carmichael and Roz Kitschke married at their home in Franklin, on the island state of Tasmania, surrounded by 65 friends and family members. As their wedding guest and rights advocate Rodney Croome told NBC News, “This morning’s wedding marked the start of a new chapter in the lives of the two brides but also a new chapter in the life of the nation.”