Illawarra’s first same-sex marriage sealed with a kiss

Michael Hobbs never doubted Australia’s vote on same-sex marriage would fall in support of him and his partner, Edward Kwok-Hobbs. 

So he was surprised, when the result came in, at the feelings it stirred.

“When it was actually announced, it was very emotional,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes with joy, and all of a sudden it just hit me and I thought, it's real.”

On Tuesday morning, two months after the ‘yes’ vote was delivered but just nine hours after their union became legally allowable, Michael wed his long-time partner Edward at a ceremony at Wollongong’s Lagoon restaurant.

Theirs is believed to be the Illawarra’s first same-sex wedding.

In “comfortable suits”, with a rainbow-coloured rose nestled in Michael’s suit pocket, the couple walked hand-in-hand down a makeshift aisle to Bruno Mars’ Marry You. Forty friends and family members were there to cheer as celebrant Lorraine Lehman-Jones sealed the deal. 

It was an intimate affair, compared to the rollicking commitment ceremony the pair had in 2010, with 150 guests and an entire restaurant booked out in their honour. 

“We wanted this to be a little more low-key,” Michael said. 

“There are a lot of legal rights now that we’re entitled to. That was the biggest thing. Just being in a relationship, even with a commitment ceremony, if anything happened to Edward I have no legal rights. That’s the main reason we did this. 

“It gives us security, a feeling of acceptability. Our civil rights have been met now. It’s way overdue, but this is a lot to us.” 

Their ceremony was initially planned for January 10 but Edward, who immigrated to Australia from Indonesia, favoured a day earlier as nine is an auspicious number in Chinese culture, signalling long life. 

Michael, a nurse, and Edward, an accountant, met through mutual friends but didn’t initially “hit it off”. 

“We had a dinner, he was sitting with friends at a different table,” Edward said. 

JUST MARRIED: Edward Kwok-Hobbs and Michael Hobbs celebrate their marriage at the Lagoon this morning. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

JUST MARRIED: Edward Kwok-Hobbs and Michael Hobbs celebrate their marriage at the Lagoon this morning. Pictures: Sylvia Liber

“He kept looking at me, so I said, alright, you want my number? 

“I made the first move.” 

The men say their nine-year relationship has long had the support of their families. 

Michael’s father attended their commitment ceremony, but didn’t live to see the day his son could marry. 

“He would have been over the moon,” Michael said. 

“My mum can’t come today because she’s housebound but she’ll be waiting for all the gossip when we get home.” 

Ms Lehman-Jones conducted the couple’s commitment ceremony in 2010, when “that was all that was on offer to them”. 

“It wasn’t that long ago that gay people were being bashed and locked up – it’s just mind blowing,” she said. 

“Once that [same-sex marriage] legislation came through, not every gay couple is going to want to get married, the same as some heterosexual couples don’t want to get married, but the fact that they now have that choice, and freedom and the right to do that is just so exciting. 

“I have just been so excited for this couple, and for the other couples I have who are in the pipeline to have ceremonies.”

Michael and Edward recently moved from Dapto to Robertson.

They say they see no children in their future, but they intend to rear a unique family of five dogs and an untold number of alpacas. 

“We’re in the middle of breeding alpacas,” Michael said. 

“That’s keeping us busy at the moment.”