When the Supreme Court voted to legalize gay marriage in the U.S., the news reverberated across both sides of the coasts, and even those in other countries shared in our jubilation. After the announcement was made, photographer Thomas Stewart shared images from a wedding he snapped back in February, where the bride, groom and all 17 guests at the wedding covered their ears to protest Australia’s “man-and-wife” law. Stewart recently shared these images to both celebrate America’s landmark progress, and to bring attention to his country’s own lack of marriage equality.
In Australia, a celebrant must state, to some effect, “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” But the bride and groom, Abbey and Mitch Johnston, decided to stage a powerful protest against the line to highlight marriage inequality.
Planned with the celebrant beforehand, the symbolic gesture both fulfilled the celebrant’s duties in making the marriage legally binding under Australian law, as well as the Johnston’s desire to make a compelling, meaningful statement in support of marriage equality. All those present were still able to hear the celebrant’s words.
The Johnston’s purpose was to send a message to the Australian government that they — along with many others — refused to accept the subtle discrimination against same-sex couples.
“I fear that one day my future children will ask, “Mum did you get married when same-sex marriage was not legal?” Abbey wrote to A Plus. “I wanted to show them that we didn’t just stand by. That we were proud of what we believed in, a very small act of defiance.”
Abbey first posted the images on Facebook, and when Stewart shared her post later, the photos went viral, to the couple’s surprise. “We did not do this for publicity,” she said. “We did this because we are tired, tired for the LGBT community and the segregation and inequality that this country is okay with. … We did this because we believe in equality. We believe in love. It is as simple as that.”
When Stewart heard that SCOTUS decided to legalize gay marriage, he was “ecstatic,” he told A Plus. “I’m just so sad and and ashamed that the basic right to marry who you love, regardless of gender, isn’t an option in Australia yet.”