real life

"When we come home, people still call us boyfriends, not husbands."

Stéphane and Ben have the most ordinarily beautiful love story.

Meeting through a mutual friend at a party, the duo noticed each other immediately, recognising a “strong connection” but didn’t have the chance to pursue it. They left the party and headed back to their respective lives.

Three months later, their paths crossed again. This time they exchanged numbers and grabbed a coffee. That coffee date was 11 years ago.

Although the beginning of their relationship is one heavily etched in Ben’s memory, it wasn’t always the way.

“You know, it’s funny,” he tells me, as he recounts the story over the phone, “but we were together 18 months before both of us realised we had met at that party. That first meeting was so fleeting we had forgotten about it. It was quite bizarre.”

There’s a real sense of buoyancy in Ben’s voice when he talks of their relationship. Like pure and simple joy – and pride – in who they are and what they have created. It may be the fact the couple were married last year, or perhaps that after such a long time together the respect only deepens.

It’s nice, positive, feel-good stuff, if not totally unremarkable. It’s ordinary love in it’s most precious form.

Image supplied.

Because in a country where Ben and Stéphane aren't recognised for what they are -- husbands -- that sense of ordinary is important. In a country that has failed to legalise same-sex marriage, we forget the ordinarily beautiful love stories that are behind the politics. We forget the remarkably unremarkable. Their love is no different. And nor should their relationship statuses have to be.

I ask Ben if, in the 10 years the couple were together, at some point they assumed they would always be able to marry on home turf.


"There was that hope, and for a lot of people they are waiting for that time," he says.

That time didn't come quick enough for them though. So they flew to Switzerland to tie the knot.

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"I didn't want a token ceremony here if it wasn't recognised.

"Stéphane's friend is a pastor in Switzerland and he is gay himself. He is part of a church that's amazingly accepting of marriage equality even though even though Switzerland is quite conservative.

"It doesn't make sense, the way these things work."

He's right. It doesn't. We are on the wrong side of history letting this one slide for so long, and so many are being hurt in the process.

He doesn't linger on this point though. There are equally important points to make.

"What was amazing about the wedding, though, is that there was a really traditional side of things but there was also a very modern take, too. After all, it was two guys getting married in the Swiss Alps.

Ben and Stéphane with their mothers.

"Anyway, there is this centuries old tradition where the cows come down through the Alps in a cow festival. It happened to be on the day we got married. Before the ceremony we watched this incredible parade of hundreds of cows with bells and flowers coming through the Alps. it was a really beautiful sight."

A telling sight too. The idea that the tradition of marriage can still hold with modern twists. Tradition and modernity can, and will, co-exist.


From a more pragmatic sense, there's a greater sense of injustice around the marriage equality debate: The idea that if a couple want to get married, they have to travel. And naturally, travel costs money. I put this point to Ben - is it frustrating? The financial aspect?

"It's really frustrating," he says. "There were people who couldn't make our wedding because of that.

"Anyone should be able to get married in this country - you shouldn't have to travel to do it."

Image supplied.

I ask Ben about the biggest thing that came out of the day for them, what stood out? (Apart from the gate crashing cows, of course.) He comes back to a familiar point.

"The beauty here is that we can be respectful of the rules of marriage, but adjust them to suit modern marriages. Marriages and weddings should be relevant to the personalities of the couple, anyway."

And they certainly made sure that was the case, having both their mothers walk them down the aisle in a beautifully unique twist.

It's interesting, the thought that same-sex marriage might be legalised in the near future and so many couples already said their vows overseas. Would they have another ceremony here, too? For the ones who couldn't make it?

Perhaps, he says.

"There's time and cost and energy, but possibly when the laws change.

"I feel as married as ever, without a doubt."

And I have no doubt. That's what ordinary love tends to do.