First same-sex marriage set for next week following waiver of waiting period

A Melbourne couple have appealed the one month waiting period for intent to marry, and are likely to become the first same-sex marriage legally performed in Australia.

Stephanie Dyball and her fiancé Megan Stapleton have been engaged since 2012, and were planning their wedding well in advance. Finally sick of waiting for the law to catch up, they decided that they were going to schedule a wedding for December of this year come hell or high water. Now they have the chance to be amongst the first same-sex couples to have a legally recognised marriage on Australian soil.

“We waited and waited and we got a bit tired of waiting” Stapleton told the ABC, “and thought, we’re not going to wait around any more for them to change the law, let’s just have a wedding.”

They began planning the event, setting dates and taking evidence to Births, Deaths, and Marriages Offices almost an entire year ago. At that point they were told not to get their hopes up that the ceremony would be recognised legally, but none the less the couple wanted to press on with dates.

Ms Dyball had family coming from the UK, and so the couple decided to time their wedding close to the Ashes series as an extra incentive. At that time they weren’t to know the marriage equality bill was to pass on the 7th of this month.

Couples, straight or queer, are required to register the intent to marry a month in advance. Instead of the early 2018 marriage that would be expected, the couple is going to say their vows next week on Thursday. Exceptions like in the case of Ms Stapleton and Ms Dyball are quite rare.

Despite this their celebrant, same-sex marriage activist and leader of the Australian Equality Party Jason Tuazon-McCheryne, urged them to apply for a shortened waiting period.

“I knew there was a Prevision called ‘shortening of time’ for the lodgement of the Notice of Intent to Marry form,” said Mr Tuazon-McCheyne. “Sometimes they’ll allow a shortening so I rang the girls and I said: ‘I think you have grounds for it because you’ve booked your wedding in May; you’ve paid the deposits, you’ve got family coming from far away”.

Mr Tuazon-McCheyne woke up on Saturday to find his own Canadian marriage to his husband to be finally legally recognised. He seemed extremely excited that the women were able to have their own special day recognised by Australian courts as well.

“It’s really special. I feel really grateful as a gay man to be able to officiate a gay woman’s wedding and it’s not a stunt. It’s been planned for ages. It’s just going to be a beautiful time, and you’ll have all the legitimacy and legal right and obligations as anyone else and it’s wonderful.”

For the happy couple, it’s still sinking in.

“Everything’s happened so quickly. We just thought it wouldn’t happen this fast even once the law was passed. We just didn’t want to think about it being possible for us because we didn’t want to be disappointed.”

“The day was always going to be special regardless, you know it’s just the two of us and we’re just really excited to be able to say those words that means something in front of our family and friends.”

According to an Attorney-General spokesperson, the circumstances for authorising a shortening of time were set out in detail in Schedule 1B of the Marriage Regulations 1963.

Reasons for which you may apply for authorising marriages despite late notice include travel commitments, pre-organised wedding bookings, medical reasons, and legal proceedings which require the union to occur by a particular date. Their family travel commitments, along with all the pre-lodged forms, were enough to gain this exception.

“A party to the intended marriage realises that a close relative or friend of the party is in Australia but the relative or friend has a non-redeemable ticket for departure from Australia within less than a month and the party wishes the relative or friend to be present at the wedding.”

Mr Tuazon-McCheyne encourages same-sex couples to look at their options, but warns that waivers were not easy to get.

For more details see Schedule 1B of the Marriage Regulations Act 1963 . For in person consultations, visit the Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages at 141 St Georges Terrace, Perth, or phone 1300 305 021.

OIP Staff


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