Historic day arrives for same-sex couples

Same-sex couples tie the knot in Chch

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 14:24 19/08/2013
Daniel Tobin

Warren Dempsey-Coy and Tony Coy-Dempsey were married today - the first day same-sex couples could legally tie the knot.

Kim and Vicky tie the knot

Kim Earney, Vicky Irving
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ Zoom
HITCHED: Kim Earney and Vicky Irving tie the knot in Christchurch today.
Richard Rawstorn and Richard Andrew
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
MARRYING TIME: Richard Rawstorn and Richard Andrew are already civil union partners but want to receive the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

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After 30 years together, Warren Dempsey-Coy and Tony Coy-Dempsey tied the knot this afternoon in a simple ceremony at Chillingworth Road restaurant.

They walked down the aisle to Boyzone's No Matter What and said their heart felt vows in front of a small gathering of family in friends.


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"I live with you and join my life with yours, not merely as your husband but as your soulmate and best friend," the pair promised each other.

Among those witnessing the ceremony was Dempsey-Coy's 87-year-old mother, Lorraine, who had been "incredibly supportive" of their journey.

"We're really glad she can be with us today," Dempsey-Coy said.

Celebrant Julie Lassen pronounced the couple "husband and husband" and they sealed the union with a kiss.

The pair have been together 30 years and had a civil union ceremony five years ago, but decided to "supersize" their relationship when it became legal, Coy-Dempsey said.

He said it was a very important day for gay rights.

"It's been a long journey. The day we applied for the marriage licence was 27 years since we were decriminalised which is actually quite important," he said.

"To think growing up I worked in an environment where we face imprisonment or being committed to a psychiatric institution ... to come this far actually feels very special."

After the short but sweet ceremony, the gathering celebrated by sipping pink champagne and sat down to enjoy a meal.

"I feel very privileged to have been here to see history in the making," Lassen said.

'MARRIED PARTNERS IN LIFE'

Kim Earney and Vicky Irving had tears in their eyes this morning as they promised to be each other's "soulmate, lover and best friend".

The two brides walked down the aisle just after 9am.

They had planned to be one of the first couples to marry in New Zealand, but had to wait for Irving's brother to drive the marriage licence over from the registry office.

They were wed in a heartfelt ceremony at Cafe Del Mar in front of about 30 family and friends, declaring their "true love" for one another.

They were declared "married partners in life" at 9.30am and sealed it with a kiss.

Irving said she had "major butterflies" in her stomach as she said her vows but was also "really excited".

"We're very happy. A bit overwhelmed but happy.

"I was fighting back tears during the vows."

Earney thanked the politicians who had passed the law: "Thank you so much for getting us to this point. We never thought it would happen."

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"We couldn't wait for the day where we could get married completely," Irving said.

Both agreed they day had been "everything they wanted and more".

"It's an amazing feeling to be married", Irving said.

"It's a perfect day and we love each other very much."

They would spend the day celebrating with family and would go horseriding tomorrow as a "mini honeymoon".

Celebrant Anne Stubbersfield, who performed the ceremony, said the couple had been on her books for years.

"They were planning a civil union but kept putting it off for years due to costs."

Stubbersfield is a member of the Garden City Charitable Trust, which donated most of the wedding to the couple, including the cake, the invites, the venue and a DJ.

Those who donated were part of the Dream Wedding Expo.

"We wanted to make it as special for them as possible," Stubbersfield said.

"We thought of Kim and Vicky straight away. They're so deserving and a wonderful couple.

"At the end of the day they're just two people in love."

The venue had been decorated with pink balloons, candles and a red carpet.

The couple, who have hyphenated their last names to Earney-Irving, have been together for three years.

Department of Internal Affairs figures show six notices of intended marriage had been issued for the Canterbury region on Friday, indicating those people wanted to wed today. Nationally, 31 have been issued.

The law change makes New Zealand the 15th country in which same-sex couples can legally get married.

Christchurch's Richard Rawstorn, 30, and Richard Andrew, 27, also hope to be one of the first same-sex couples in New Zealand to wed.

The pair won a radio station's same-sex marriage competition and will wed in a ceremony at the historic Rotorua Museum.

Rawstorn and Andrew had a civil union ceremony last year because it was "the closest thing to being married as possible".

Now, they "could not wait" to be able to receive the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

 

While there were several marriages taking place today, many expected the real influx of same-sex weddings to start in the traditional wedding season - between September and March.

Lassen had four other same-sex weddings confirmed for the next six months.

"Many couples are taking their time planning ceremonies for the traditional wedding season. They don't all want to get married first thing in the middle of winter."

SOME CHURCHES HAPPY TO PERFORM CEREMONIES

Christchurch churches remain divided over same-sex marriages, with some happy to perform ceremonies at their premises and others firmly opposed.

No Catholic churches or Anglican churches would perform the ceremonies or allow them in their churches, as "marriage is currently defined as between a man and a woman".

Their churches, including the Cardboard Cathedral and the Church of the Good Shepherd, would not be used for same-sex weddings.

However, other denominations in Canterbury welcomed the new law. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Hindus have left it up to individual parishes to decide whether to facilitate such weddings.

Crave Metropolitan Community Church spiritual leader Neil Hellewell said the church was "gay affirming" and would happily perform the ceremonies.

Durham St Methodist Church Reverend Mary Caygill said her parish was also in full support.

"The feeling of the congregation is that we want to be a place same-sex couples can come if they want to get married in a church."

Christians for Marriage Equality spokeswoman the Reverend Margaret Mayman believed more denominations would in future let individual parishes decide whether to marry gay couples.

- The Press

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