Australia's oldest gay couple are set to tie the knot after 50 years together
Over the last few years, the world has made significant progress in terms of LGBTQ rights. Marriage equality now exists in over 20 countries, transgender people can now legally change their genders in many places, and some nations are beginning to formally recognize individuals who identify as neither male nor female.
Most recently, Australia voted 'Yes' in a country-wide referendum to legalize same-sex marriage, following in the footsteps the USA, UK, and a great deal of Europe.
But some people have been waiting longer for the reform than others.
89-year-old John Challis and 85-year-old Arthur Cheeseman have been a couple for fifty years, and first got together when homosexuality was still considered a criminal activity in Oz. Their relationship has seen the introduction of adoption rights for gay couples, the establishment of discrimination laws to protect queer people's livelihoods, and a change in the age of consent to match that of heterosexual couples.
And now, after half a century of witnessing progress that they probably never believed would be possible, the men can finally become a married couple.
When interviewed about their thoughts on the 'yes' decision, the couple revealed their plans to wed.
“Yes we are [planning to marry],” said Cheeseman, a retired pharmacist.
“Just very quietly… Very simple. That’s it," added Challis. "I have got a 90th birthday coming up next year. We might combine it with that.”
They said that they'd either go to a nearby registry office in order to tie the knot, or perhaps have a civil celebrant come to the house in order to make their union official. Either way, they insist they will exercise their new marriage rights - but “not with any fuss”.
The vote to legalize same-sex marriage was confirmed earlier this week after 61.6 per cent of citizens voted to allow queer individuals the same basic rights as straight people. And, though some of the debate leading up to the result was pretty fierce, the celebration of the outcome has been widespread.
Pictures show thousands of people taking to the streets to celebrate in rainbow-colored attire, and the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has spoken out in support of the motion.
“Australians have shown they are committed to a fair go,” said Turnbull. “They’ve said yes to commitment. They’ve said yes to marriage equality. And they’ve said yes to love. And they’ve said to the parliament ‘get on with it, get this done’.”
Many celebrities also took to Twitter in order to express their joy at the result.
Unfortunately, the decision still faces opposition from the Australian parliament, and within hours of the 'yes' vote, new legislation was introduced that would make exemptions for religious leaders who do not want to perform same-sex marriages.
Despite this, the octogenarian couple are still ecstatic about the vote.
“It is not just endorsing gay marriage – it is endorsing gay and lesbian people,” said Cheeseman. “It gives us a new dignity, a new status, a new place in society. We are the same as everyone else.”
As for the 38.4 per cent of people that voted 'no', hopefully the introduction of marriage equality will show them that there's nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that loving another human being shouldn't be a crime.