Ben Gresham and Michael Petchell have been engaged for two months. The Warrimoo couple hope come next September, instead of crossing the ditch to New Zealand to tie the knot, they’ll be able to legally marry in the Blue Mountains.
Wedding plans are on hold until it’s known whether the law will be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry.
“It would mean so much to Michael and myself. It’s very difficult growing up gay, coming out and going through everything that we have both gone through, so for us it’s equality and validates who we are and recognises our relationship,” Mr Gresham, 29, said.
Mr Petchell, 28, a pathology collector, and Mr Gresham, a strategic town planner, met a little over two years ago at a friend’s birthday. They’ve lived together for a year, and want to make the ultimate commitment to each other and celebrate their love before family and friends.
Both Disney fans, Mr Gresham organised a trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong, prepared a speech and proposed to Michael in front of the famous Disney castle.
“It couldn’t have been more perfect. I was very overwhelmed,” Mr Petchell said.
Caught up in the moment, he didn’t answer immediately, but then it was an enthusiastic “yes”.
Mr Petchell had also secretly been planning a proposal, so a few days later he played Mr Gresham a video he’d made capturing different moments of their lives together, finishing with, “Will you marry me?”
“Marriage is an extra level to a relationship that we can’t have now,” Mr Petchell said.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the couple. As committed Christians, being gay and having faith hasn’t always gelled well.
Raised in the Hills district as a Pentecostal Christian, Mr Gresham went through three church conversion programs to try to make him straight, and at 19 he tried to take his own life. This is an example of why marriage equality is so important, he says, particularly for youth.
“Marriage equality sends a message to teens that they do matter and they can have a relationship on par with what their parents have.”
Mr Petchell said the Baptist church community he was raised in in Canberra had been very supportive when he came out.
The couple now attend a non-denominational church in Petersham, and are hopeful of finding another church in the Blue Mountains.
They’ve been distributing “vote yes” flyers in Warrimoo and Springwood, and estimated that locally, more than 60 per cent of people were supportive of marriage equality. “People in the Mountains have been very supportive and kind and loving,” Mr Gresham said.
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