Peter and Gordon: Just married in Australia under UK law
Peter Fraser and Gordon Stevenson are the first same-sex couple to be married under UK law in Australia. They share their story with Reg Domingo.
“We are so grateful that the UK has bought in this legislation to allow couples where at least one is a British citizen, to marry here and in other countries that don’t yet have equality under the law,” says Peter Fraser.
“There is a great satisfaction in achieving legal status,” adds Peter’s husband, Gordon Stevenson. “Even if it’s not yet recognised here, it is a step in the right direction that the Australian government has allowed these wedding to take place here.”
The men, who tied the knot on Friday, June 27, at a ceremony in the British Consulate in Sydney, are the first same-sex couple to be married under UK law in Australia. Equal marriage laws passed in the UK in 2013, thereby allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australian cities, as long as one partner has British citizenship. Peter, 43, and Gordon, 61, are dual nationals of the UK and Australia.
“I never thought it would be possible when we met,” Peter says. “I just wish we could have done it years ago.”
The pair met in 1995 when Peter, born and raised in the UK, travelled to Australia for a working holiday. In Sydney, he met Gordon, who was born in Scotland but had lived in Australia with his family from a young age.
“We have rarely been apart since,” Peter says.
Such was their connection that, shortly after meeting, they travelled to Melbourne where they would exchange rings. “In those days, we thought that was as close as we’d get to a real wedding,” Peter says. “I guess that was our engagement – 19 years is a pretty long one!”
Above: Peter and Gordon at their marriage ceremony at the British Consulate in Sydney. Photo: Cec Busby
When law reforms passed in the UK legalising same-sex marriage in 2013, the couple took the news in their stride. “I felt a sense of justice, that a wall of discrimination had been brought down,” Gordon says.
It wasn’t until the British Consul released information stating same-sex couples can get married under UK law in Australia did the news really hit home. After nearly two decades, Peter and Gordon would finally be married.
“Essentially we have been living as if we were married for many years, our love for each other and relationship will not change, the difference is in recognition,” Peter says. “When people say they have a boyfriend or partner that means one thing, when people talk about a husband or a wife, it means something different to most people.
“You are declaring to everyone the permanent nature of your relationship and asking society, the government, your friends and family to acknowledge that. All the time LGBTQI couples are denied that right, we are second-class citizens whose relationships do not have equal standing with everyone else’s.”
The significance of being the first same-sex couple to tie the knot under UK law in Australia is not lost on either men. Indeed, it’s a source of immense pride and honour.
“While we had not planned to be first couple, and only found out when we signed the documents two weeks ago, it is a real privilege to be the first of, I’m sure, many couples, who will now choose to marry in the country that they call home,” says Peter.
“It feels important,” adds Gordon. “In a way we can represent the aspirations of people in Australia who want to get married but can’t at the moment.”
But while Peter and Gordon are officially hitched in the eyes of British law, their marriage is not recognised in Australia. No doubt their union, and many others to come, will add weight not only to the current Senate Inquiry into the recognition of overseas same-sex marriage, but also to the broader gay marriage debate in Australia.
“Iknow there is a lot of support on both sides of federal politics – I hope the LNP Party room allows a conscious vote on the issue,” Peter says. “I think that we are one step closer, the Australian Government had to give its permission to the UK to conduct the ceremonies here.
“There is a Senate Inquiry into the recognition of overseas same sex marriages. If anyone would like to write a submission in support to the Senate, they can do so via Australian Marriage Equality’s website.”
“David Cameron, the UK Prime Minster, said, ‘When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change’,” Gordon says. “I think that says it all really.”
Above: Gordon and Peter celebrate their marriage in Sydney on Friday. Photo: Cec Busby