EDITORIAL: First marriages mark a new beginning

After a lifetime of discrimination, after years of lobbying and debate and after a controversial $120 million-plus national survey, Australia’s first legal same-sex marriages were celebrated on Tuesday.

The many ceremonies held throughout Australia, including in the Ballarat region, were the result of a hard-fought campaign for rightful marriage equality.

Same-sex marriage legislation cleared parliament on December 7, nearly a month after it was revealed 61.6 per cent of participants in a voluntary postal survey backed the change.

Couples were quick to lodge formal intentions to wed and while some were granted exemptions to the four-week waiting period, Tuesday marked the first official day ceremonies can take place.

After the groundbreaking legislation was passed late last year, marriage celebrants received a directive from the Attorney General’s office of the new monitum they were required to say during a wedding ceremony. The new wording is ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others' instead of ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.’

And these new words were met with joy during Tuesday’s ceremonies as the same-sex couples now receive equal treatment under the law.

When the same-sex marriage bill was passed in December last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared: “What a day! What a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it.”

The same can be said for same-sex marriages celebrated on Tuesday. It was also the day to mark the “new norm”, when no more will same-sex couples feel discriminated against in the eyes of the law.

Ballarat same-sex couple Lesley Williams and Megan Fromholtz are looking forward to their 1940s vintage fete-style wedding for October this year.

Speaking to The Courier last month about the passing of marriage equality in Australia, Ms Williams said it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

The pair said they were very proud of the support for same-sex marriage from the Ballarat community. “For a conservative community like Ballarat, a 75 per cent yes vote means a lot to us,” Ms Fromholtz said.

For couples like Ms Williams and Ms Fromholtz, no more will they feel discriminated against when it comes to marrying the person they love.