Meet the First Gay Couple Legally Wed in Australia

By Thom Senzee

Originally published on Advocate.com June 27 2014 7:52 PM ET

The world's first same-sex couple to be married in a consulate is a gay Australian pair, reports News.com.au.

Gordon Stevenson married Peter Fraser, who is a dual British and Australian citizen, at the British Consulate in Sydney yesterday. Several more nuptials are planned by same-sex couples around the globe at British consulates, following changes this March in U.K. law regarding same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

For one week late last year, same-sex couples could marry in the Australian Capital Territory, which is roughly analogous to the District of Columbia in the U.S. and encompasses Australia's capital, Canberra. However, the unions of the 27 couples married during that week of marriage equality in the ACT were annulled after the Australian Supreme Court found that the territorial law violated a 2004 federal law that defines marriage in Australia as being a union between "one man and one woman."

Significantly, the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott asserts that it sees no problem with Australian same-sex couples marrying at British consulates. Last year his predecessor, Kevin Rudd, had promised to make marriage equality a reality in Australia in 100 days, but Abbott defeated Rudd in his bid for reelection before Rudd could make good on that promise. Despite its name, the Liberal Party is fairly conservative.

Because of the 2004 law, as soon as Stevenson and Fraser left the British Consulate after exchanging vows that made them lawfully wedded spouses in the United Kingom, they ceased to be a legally recognized married couple in Australia. While they are in a British consulate in Sydney or anywhere else around the world, however, their marriage is legally recognized, since consulates are considered territory of the nations they represent. 

“I don’t see how it affects anyone else,” Fraser told News.com.au. “We grow up with this idea that you meet someone, fall in love and get married. Why should [sic] we be able to have that?"

Australian marriage law notwithstanding, the newlyweds were ecstatic as they left the consulate and were reportedly greeted by throngs of well-wishers bearing streamers and shouting support for their 19 years as a loving couple. Fraser's parents even flew in from the U.K. to see their son marry a man whom they say they have considered to be their son-in-law for many years.

Fraser believes the key to winning marriage equality in Australia is for more Australians to know LGBT people.

“Most of the people opposed to it probably don’t know any gay people,” he said. “If they did, they’d see there’s nothing to fear from it. In other countries where it’s legal it hasn’t made a bit of difference to people’s lives except the people getting married.”

Australia's next same-sex couple planning to hold their wedding at the British Consulate in Sydney is Sarah Midgely and Shirleene Robinson. The lesbian couple will exchange wedding vows in September, according to News.com.au.

“We’ve been engaged for two years now and we really want to share that special moment. It makes us so sad that we can’t do that under Australian law,” the couple told the news outlet.

Australia has its first gay marriage | http://t.co/odefWQ668G via @Rob_Stott (who caught the bouquet) pic.twitter.com/mE2zD1b9vl

— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) June 27, 2014

Contributor: 
Thom Senzee