Couple celebrates life

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Bridget Casse
TRUE LOVE: Henderson couple Bridget Casse, left, and Michelle Smales have been together for more than eight years

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A Henderson couple who were almost separated for life are vying to be one of the first gay couple to marry in New Zealand.

Michelle Smales, 41, nearly lost her partner of eight years Bridget Casse, 31, when she fell down a staircase in February.

Doctors didn't expect her to survive the life-threatening head injuries and grade five kidney damage but after two surgeries and weeks spent in Auckland Hospital she is slowly on the mend.

The accident has strengthened the couple's resolve and they're competing for a dream wedding from The Edge radio station.

The same-sex wedding competition pits the pair against three gay and lesbian couples with the winner voted in by the public via text or online.

The prize is an all-expenses paid wedding in Rotorua on the day same-sex marriage is officially legalised on August 19.

It wasn't exactly love at first sight for the pair with Ms Smales taking a bit of convincing before she agreed to a date with Ms Casse.

Five years later it was Ms Smales proposing to make their relationship official by having a civil union.

"It was all that was available to us at the time," Ms Casse says.

"We never thought we would have the opportunity to get married." The competition closes at midnight Sunday and the couple are hoping West Aucklanders will get in behind them and vote.

Miss Casse says they want to get married for their 4-year-old daughter Phoenix.

"It would be nice to not have to say to her that we weren't actually allowed to have a wedding, we had to have a civil union because we're not as equal as everybody else.

"We want to tell her everybody in this society can love who they want."

With little income other than ACC payments the pair the pair decided to enter The Edge competition.

After a rough start to the year they're hoping to inject a bit of fun into their lives, they say.

"Michelle deserves to be pampered for a day because she's stuck by me," Ms Casse says.

Visit facebook.com/SamesexweddingFinalistsBridgetMichelle for more information on how to vote.

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- Western Leader

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