On Wednesday Australians, in a public opinion referendum, voted to endorse same-sex marriage by a margin of 62% to 38%. The voluntary mail ballot turnout was 79.5%. The vote of approval paves the way for parliament to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, hopefully before the holidays. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball encouraged same-sex couples to embark on wedding plans (happy occasions that are expected to generate a £300 million-plus boost to the Australian economy).
John Challis, 89, and Arthur Cheeseman, 85, are thought to be the oldest same-sex partners in Australia. They aim to marry in January, though “not with any fuss,” at the registry house or at home in a civil ceremony, perhaps in combination with Mr. Challis’ 90th birthday.
Mr. Challis and Mr. Cheeseman met in 1967 at an art reception as they were both leaving and “just happened to smile at each other.”
Mr. Cheeseman did not think marriage with Mr. Challis would be possible in their lifetime, but was comforted by the referendum result.
Mr. Challis believes that former president Obama was instrumental in getting many folks to challenge their personal prejudices towards same sex marriages stating, “He’s explained the development of his position and the reasons he’s given,” (towards that evolution of opinion).
“It is not just endorsing gay marriage—it is endorsing gay and lesbian people,” he said. “It gives us a new dignity, a new status, a new place in society. We are the same as everyone else.”
Enjoy an interview with the lovely couple from five years ago.