Australian politician to marry gay partner in Spain

An Australian politician and his boyfriend are getting married in Spain Wednesday after flying halfway round the world to take advantage of the country's gay marriage laws, they told AFP.

Ian Hunter, social inclusion minister in the state government of South Australia, and his partner of 22 years Leith Semmens, have come from Adelaide to tie the knot in Jun, a small Spanish town near Granada.

Australian lawmakers have rejected efforts over recent months to legalise same-sex marriages. Spain has allowed such marriages since 2005, though cases of two foreigners coming to Spain to marry remain rare.

"We're not getting married because of any political campaign. We're getting married to express our love for each other, as our friends can do back home," Hunter, 52, told AFP by telephone as he and Semmens, 42, prepared for the ceremony.

"It's about being finally able to express my love in front of the people who are important to me."

Seventeen family members and friends from Australia came to Spain to witness the wedding in Jun's Pabellon de Las Artes, an arts venue inspired by Andalusia's Arab-era architecture.

Jun's mayor Jose Antonio Rodriguez Salas -- a vocal supporter of the right to gay marriage -- helped the couple settle the complicated paperwork necessary to marry in Spain.

Rodriguez told AFP that since 2005 he had carried out the ceremony for many gay couples, but this was the first time he had done so for one of which both members were from overseas.

The leader of Spain's main gay rights group FELTGB Boti Garci Rodrigo said: "I find it moving and charged with significance" that an Australian gay couple had come to marry in Spain.

"It can allow them to enjoy the happiness of getting married legitimately under the law," she said. "And it is charged with significance because this marriage should be made valid in all countries."

Spain's constitutional court last month upheld the country's gay marriage law, throwing out a long-standing appeal by the governing Popular Party which is now in government. The party had contested the use of the word "marriage" for same-sex unions.

Same-sex marriages are fully legal in 10 countries including Canada and South Africa, and are allowed in some parts of the United States and Mexico. Similar legislation is pending in France and Britain.

"I am absolutely confident that Australia will change its laws in the next six or seven years," Hunter said.

"I know I'm on the right side of history with this and I'm not that fussed if Australia takes a little longer to get there."

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