Gay wedding first for serving state minister

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A prominent gay Australian politician has married his partner in southern Spain, two months after Australia voted down a proposal to enact same-sex marriage legislation.

Ian Hunter, the social inclusion minister for South Australia, said he was disappointed his marriage to artist Leith Semmens would not be legal in Australia, but said the two decided they couldn’t wait for Canberra to approve a gay marriage law.

“Without a doubt it’s inevitable in Australia, but you’re looking at six or seven years, and me and my partner weren’t willing to wait that long,” Mr Hunter said yesterday, a few hours before he and Mr Semmens wed at an art gallery in the town of Jun.

Mayor Jose Antonio Rodriguez officiated at the ceremony attended by more than a dozen friends and relatives. In accordance with a local tradition, the couple kissed for 17 seconds, which were counted out loud by the guests.

Mr Hunter, 52, is believed to be the first sitting member of an Australian legislative body to marry a gay partner.

The former scientist has long been an advocate for gay rights, and an MP in the ruling Labour Party in the South Australian state legislature since 2006. He became a state minister last year.

The party’s annual national conference in December 2011 reversed its opposition to gay marriage, but premier Julia Gillard remains opposed. Legislation that would have recognised same-sex marriages was defeated in the House of Representatives in September in a 98-48 vote.