‘Huge step forward’: First gay marriages take place in Australia
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‘Huge step forward’: First gay marriages take place in Australia

AT the stroke of midnight, same-sex wedding ceremonies took place all over Australia as the country celebrates its first day of marriage equality on Jan 9.

The happy couples were free to marry after Australia’s Parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage in December after a long campaign involving a public postal vote and hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate.

Sixty-two percent of Australians voted in favour of the move in an overwhelming show of support for equal rights in the country.

SEE ALSO: Gay marriage is now legal in Australia

While a handful of special-case ceremonies have already taken place, most couples have had to see out the statutory one month waiting period until they can actually tie the knot. The law officially changed on Dec 9, making Tuesday, Jan 9, the first day for vows to be exchanged between husband and husband, wife and wife.

Among the first to wed were Commonwealth Games sprinter Craig Burns and his partner of three years, fellow athlete Luke Sullivan. Just minutes after the clocks struck midnight, Burns and Sullivan exchanged vows in an intimate country ceremony attended by 50 of their closest family and friends at Summergrove Estate at Carool in the New South Wales Northern Rivers Hinterland.

According to ABC News, the couple has been bombarded with messages of support from strangers supporting their union.

“My Instagram direct messages have blown up with people I have never met I don’t know who are just sending love and congratulations, it’s really touching,” Sullivan said.

“Equality where we can get married is a huge step forward for Australia.”

SEE ALSO: Asian couples expected to flock to Australia after same-sex marriage passed

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A couple exchanges rings during their mock wedding outside Australia’s Labor Party conference at Darling Harbour in Sydney. Source: Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Celebrant Sarah May Alexander, who conducted the ceremony, told ABC the change in legislation made her job more enjoyable.

“Up until a month ago, I had to say some words that were very discriminatory and it broke my heart I used to have to say that marriage was between a man and a woman,” she said. “So tonight I get to say marriage is between two people.”

The new law overturned an explicit ban on marriages between same-sex couples, as legislated by former Prime Minister John Howard in 2004. Australia is the 26th country to legalise gay marriage, joining New Zealand and Taiwan in the Asia Pacific.