An elderly Australian couple plan to wed after 50 years together, since their country voted to legalise gay marriage.
John Challis, 89, and Arthur Cheeseman, 85, are believed to be the oldest gay couple in Australia and said the historic vote yesterday ‘gives us a new dignity’.
Challis and Cheeseman met in 1967 by chance at an art gallery, and are now planning to get married in January ‘not with any fuss’.
Mr Cheeseman and Mr Challis said they plan to marry next year – either at a nearby registry office, or at home in Sydney with a civil celebrant and a cup of coffee.
The couple met after they left an art gallery at the same time and ‘just happened to smile at each other’.
Mr Cheeseman, a retired pharmacist, told ABC Radio:
Yes we are [planning to marry], just very quietly … Very simple. That’s it. I have got a 90th birthday coming up next year. We might combine it with that.
It is not just endorsing gay marriage – it is endorsing gay and lesbian people. It gives us a new dignity, a new status, a new place in society. We are the same as everyone else.
We hope that [no voters] get used to us. They will soon find out that it is not the end of civilisation.
Yesterday, Australians overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll – which many observers can’t believe took this long to happen.
The postal vote showed 61.6 per cent of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated.
Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags while singing and dancing. The vote, which had a turnout of 79.5 per cent, was conducted by post and was non-binding.
It was effectively an opinion survey – with a hefty cost of about £60 million – but was agreed to by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a bid to placate conservative members of his ruling Coalition who strongly oppose same-sex marriage.
A bill to change the law was introduced into the Senate late on Wednesday and will now be debated for amendments. Mr Turnbull said his government would aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas.
[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality.
They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love.
The people of Australia have spoken and I intend to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas. This is an overwhelming call for marriage equality. pic.twitter.com/PWZbH5H71r
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) November 14, 2017
After a two month national survey, Australians have emphatically voted to legalise same-sex marriage, 61.6 per cent to 31.4 per cent.
The issue only went to a non-binding voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about amending Australia’s Marriage Act.
— kylie minogue (@kylieminogue) November 14, 2017
The No campaign had previously said they’d settle for a result over 40 per cent, with Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister, saying it would be a moral victory.
The ‘Yes’ to gay marriage campaign have since been holding celebrations across the country, with great gusto from the LGBT+ community and all those who support equality.
A giant rainbow flag was raised to mark the result at 5pm local time on Wednesday. The flag flies about Taylor Square at the centre of the city’s LGBT+ neighbourhood of Darlinghurst.
In a heartwarming video, James Brechney and Stuart Henshell celebrated the victory for equality with a marriage proposal.
Moments after the vote was revealed, Mr Brechney got down on one knee for partner Stuart:
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There are believed to be 50,000 same-sex couples in Australia and the coming wedding boom is expected to deliver a £300 million-plus boost to the economy.
Welcome to the 21st century, Oz!