(AP) Same-sex couples married in midnight ceremonies across Australia on Tuesday after the country's last legal impediment to gay marriage expired.
Marriage equality became law on Dec. 9 with overwhelming support in Parliament, but Australia's requirement that all couples give a month's notice for weddings made Tuesday the first possible date for gay marriages.
Athletes Craig Burns and Luke Sullivan married at a midnight ceremony near the east coast city of Tweed Heads.
"It's another way to show your love and appreciation of your partner in front of the people in your life," said Burns, a 29-year-old sprinter who will compete in the Commonwealth Games in Australia's Gold Coast in April.
In Newcastle, north of Sydney, Rebecca Hickson, 32, married her partner of nine years, Sarah Turnbull, 34.
Hickson described the divisive build-up to a gay marriage ballot preceding Parliament's vote as "a horrible time." She said the couple wanted to be part of history by becoming one of the first lesbian couples to marry in Australia.
Lainey Carmichael, 51, and Roz Kitschke, 46, married shortly after dawn before 65 guests at their home in the town of Franklin in the island state of Tasmania.
The early ceremony was mainly to avoid the summer heat, Kitschke said. "New day; new era - and we don' like the heat that much," she said.
Wedding guest Rodney Croome, a long-time marriage equality advocate and spokesperson for Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality, said: "This morning's wedding marked the start of a new chapter in the lives of the two brides but also a new chapter in the life of the nation."
"Today we are a more equal and inclusive country that treats all loving, committed couples the same," Croome said in a statement.
The Australian Parliament overwhelming voted for same-sex marriage after a nationwide postal survey found that 62 percent of respondents wanted marriage equality.