Love and Marriage

Joy and celebration as New Zealand celebrates first same-sex weddings

One couple, who had been together 13 years, got married at 39,000 feet.


WHEN LYNLEY BENDALL and Ally Wanikau walked down the aisle to exchange vows today, the fasten-seatbelt signs were off.

The couple celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage in New Zealand by getting hitched in a plane at 39,000 feet. Along for the ride was Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of the ABC sitcom “Modern Family.”

Instead of soda and peanuts, the flight attendants served champagne and canapés.

Melissa Ray, right, and Natasha Wall take part in their wedding ceremony to be one of the first gay couples in New Zealand to be married. Pic: AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Greg Bowker

Today was the first day same-sex couples could marry in New Zealand, where the law was changed back in April. Officials said that about three dozen same-sex couples planned to marry in towns and cities throughout the country.

Bendall and Wanikau were flying high after winning a promotion by national carrier Air New Zealand.

“Passing the bill, and the law change, is huge for our country,” Bendall said. “We’re so proud.” She and Wanikau have been together 13 years and have three foster children.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left, and husband Justin Mikita on July 31 in Los Angeles. Pic: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Ferguson said he hoped to shine the spotlight on “this amazing movement forward for civil rights” in New Zealand.

He married his longtime partner, lawyer Justin Mikita, in a New York City ceremony last month.

“So I’m very happy to come out here with my husband to bring some attention to this great day,” he said.

Rachel Briscoe, left, and Jess Ivess, second left, celebrate their marriage as does and Richard Andrew, second right, and Richard Rawstorn after their respective same-sex wedding ceremony held at Rotorua, New Zealand. Pic: AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Alan Gibson

After the charter flight landed, the plane was towed to a hangar for a reception with live music and a rainbow-colored wedding cake.

Celebrant Kim Jewel Elliott had twice before united the couple — first in 2001 in a commitment ceremony and then in 2009 in a civil union.

“I feel so happy,” Elliott said. “Injustices still happen and there are still things to fight for. But this is a real day of joy.”

Read: Britain legalises gay marriage>

Read: Aww: Bert and Ernie make the cover of The New Yorker in gay marriage celebration>

Read: The 14 countries that allow gay marriage>

Associated Foreign Press
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