An Anglican priest and his male partner have become the first same-sex couple to be given a church marriage in Bendigo after they were married by a Uniting Church minister last Saturday.

Father Noel Richards was ordained as an Anglican priest over forty years ago and has been in a committed relationship with his partner Drew Reid for five years but were unable to be married within their own Protestant denomination because of Anglican opposition to same-sex marriage.

However the Uniting Church in Australia began performing church weddings for same-sex couples in late September last year, though any Uniting minister who does not wish to perform the service can still opt out.

That wasn’t the case for Uniting Reverend Di Esbensen who was happy to marry Father Noel and Drew and she told the Bendigo Advertiser that she was proud for her St Andrews Uniting Church to host the historic wedding.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled that we could celebrate with two gorgeous men as they had their wedding,” she said.

“It’s also great to celebrate being a church that is open and inclusive and happy to celebrate good relationships. It’s just brilliant. To have this celebration in Bendigo where people were so enthusiastic in their support for same-sex marriage, it’s just great,” she said.

“The service was just splendid. It was warm and loving and relaxed, while having this sense of depth and dignity that every wedding deserves to have.”

The Bendigo electorate returned one of the highest Yes votes in Australia during the postal plebiscite, with nearly 69 percent of respondents voting to support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, more than the Australian and Victorian average.

The Anglican Church in Australia is currently divided on whether it should be allowed to bless married same-sex couples who have married in civil ceremonies with several diocese voting in favour of the reform, though they have not begun doing so as they are waiting for the Anglican Church in Australia’s appellate tribunal to provide guidance on the issue.

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