Hunter couples thrilled Marriage Equality Bill gets passed

Merewether’s Gemma Pearce and Brianna White were among many same-sex couples celebrating around the country on Thursday after federal Parliament overwhelmingly passed the Marriage Equality Bill.

The engaged couple are expecting their first child in June next year and were looking forward to being legally married in the future.

“When Brie asked me, we were all excited and we were looking to plan a wedding,” Ms Pearce, 24, said.

“The whole legal thing doesn’t bother us, we would’ve got married no matter what, but we thought we’d plan to have a baby first and then see what happened. 

“This is just really exciting. It will be legalised and a real wedding, and it will be registered and it will feel a whole lot nicer. As well as having a bub, it’s going to make a huge difference.”

The former W-League Jets player said reaching this point had been a long process for same-sex couples.

“It just feels so much better that everyone thinks we’re equal now,” she said.

“We had so much support around us, but to have it from the whole world ... we’re not looked down on. People realise how common same-sex couples are now rather than hiding it away.”

Adamstown Heights 27-year-old Laura Byrnes and wife Alex exchanged vows at Seal Rocks two years ago but are keen to make the union legal. 

“It’s a bit surreal, I don’t know how to feel,” Ms Byrnes said on Thursday after the bill was passed. “It has been a long process and for a while there we weren’t sure when it was going to happen and the fact it has is pretty amazing.

“We would love to get married again. We would love to have another ceremony to make it legal. That’s something that we’ve always said we’d do because for friends and family it’s been a long road too and it will be good to celebrate it with all of them.”

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon felt “honoured and humbled” to have been part of the historic vote.

Laura Byrnes, left, and her wife Alex. Picture: Simone De Peak

Laura Byrnes, left, and her wife Alex. Picture: Simone De Peak

“Finally, federal marriage law aligns with the values and wishes of the majority of Australians,” Ms Claydon said in a written statement.

“I hope this resounding ‘yes’ vote puts an end to the cruel slurs and vicious attacks that LGBTQI Australians and rainbow families have been subjected to ever since the Prime Minister decided to farm out basic human rights to a public vote.”

Ms Claydon said she was pleased the Parliament rejected amendments proposed by opponents of marriage equality that could have delayed the passage of the bill.

“It would be very concerning if the marriage equality debate, which is squarely aimed at the removal of discrimination, was used to justify new forms of discrimination,” Ms Claydon said.

“There is a legitimate conversation to be had around religious freedoms – especially how we reconcile cases where the rights and beliefs of one person conflict with the rights and beliefs of another.

“However, there are already two parliamentary committees looking at these questions, and it would do no justice to the issues to try to shoehorn them into the unrelated marriage equality debate.