Celebrating Australia's first same-sex weddings

Last updated 15:30 07/12/2013
Fairfax Media

As soon as the ACT's marriage equality came into effect, gay couples began tying the knot in Canberra, with less than a week before the High Court's ruling on whether the laws are overturned.

Australia same sex marriage
WEDDED BLISS: Samantha Harmes and Haley Wilson hug after getting married.
Australia same sex marriage
HAPPY DAY: ACT celebrant Sharyn Gunn officiates over Australia's first Australian legal same sex marriage between Alan Wright (L)and Joel Player, at one minute past 12 midnight.

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Never in Australia, surely, has the closing moment of a wedding been less complicated. "You may kiss the bride," announced celebrant Judy Aulich. And with that, both brides kissed. Hayley Wilson and Samantha Hermes were married.

It was the first legal wedding between two women in Australia. Hayley and Samantha made sure of it by choosing the early hour of 7.30am on Saturday for their wedding in Aulich's garden in the Canberra suburb of Giralang.

A merciful early summer sun shone from a blue sky, chasing away the morning chill. It wasn't quite the first legal same-sex marriage, however.

Stephen Dawson, a West Australian state Labor MP, and his partner Dennis Liddleton had tied the knot hours earlier. They made sure of their place in history by electing to be married on the forecourt of Canberra's parliament house at 12.01am.

Away in the high distance, the city's Telstra tower, perched atop Black Mountain, switched from its normal white light and pulsed the colours of the rainbow.

More than a dozen same sex couples were to be married on Saturday under the ACT's new Marriage Equality Same Sex Marriage Act 2013.

The marriages, however, may yet be among the shortest-lived in history. They are being held in the lee of a High Court challenge by the federal Government to the validity of the ACT's legislation.

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 under the Constitution, effectively nullifying the weekend's burst of marriage equality in the national capital; it could rule that 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.

On Saturday, however, Hayley Wilson and Samantha Hermes were simply happy to hear their celebrant declare that "I have the great pleasure to announce that this couple is now legally married".

"It's a beautiful day and I'm marrying my best friend," said Samantha. "It's a huge day for Canberra and for all of Australia."

"Now," said Aulich, "This is the moment I usually say you may kiss the bride."

There was not a beat of hesitation. The two brides kissed. The sun shone. Guests applauded.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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