The wedding between same-sex couple Peter Fraser and Gordon Stevenson on June 27 in a British embassy in Sydney was one of the first same-sex unions happening across the globe. However, their marriage will not be recognised in Australia since there are no same-sex marriage laws in the country.
Families, friends and the media witnessed the exchange of marriage vows between the two British-Australians in the UK consulate. Fraser and Stevenson may be married under British law, but their union will not be recognised after stepping out of the consulate. Despite being the first to marry in a UK consulate, the couple will not be entitled to the benefits of legally married couples in Australia.
Since March 2014, same-sex couples under British law have equal access to marriage. Recently, several British consulates were being opened up to allow same-sex couples with at least one partner having British citizenship to get married.
Nick McInnes, the British consul general, said he was lucky to be part of the marriage between Fraser and Stevenson in Sydney.
Civil partnerships are allowed in Australia, but same-sex marriage is considered illegal regardless of where the same-sex couple exchanged wedding vows. Beginning June 27, hundreds of Australian same-sex couples are expected to get married as they begin to process and book their ceremonies either in Perth or Sydney. According to reports, the move is expected to put more pressure on the Abbott government to allow conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality reform.
The Abbott government had said there was no problem with British consulates being used for same-sex marriage ceremonies since gay marriage was legalised in England and Wales. Using British laws for same-sex couples to wed in Australia was praised by marriage equality advocates as one step forward to reform Australia's marriage laws.
Rodney Croome, Australian Marriage Equality national director, said almost 300 same-sex couples from Australia went to New Zealand to get married since the Kiwi government approved the legalisation of gay marriage.
He said Australia is "playing catch-up" with other nations on the issue of marriage reforms. He expected the British consulate weddings in June will reignite the debate in the Parliament.
Gay marriage supporters expect to face a long battle with 15 new Liberal politicians saying they were unable to change their stand against same-sex marriage or were unwilling to declare support based on the results of a previous survey.