As the crowd around them roared their delight and hugged in celebration, Nikki Rumpca and Stephanie Toole took a moment to soak it all in.
Public affection is not the young couple’s go but they couldn’t help but get swept up in the emotion and sneak a quick hug when it was announced a resounding 61.6 per cent of Australians voted Yes in support of same sex marriage.
Like the many supporters who had gathered at the University of Wollongong UniBar on Wednesday morning to hear the same sex marriage postal survey results, Rumpca and Toole were both ‘’relieved and very happy’’.
Toole though was especially pleased as her dream to marry her American partner in Wollongong in front of family and friends was now very much alive.
‘’We thought we might have to go to the US to get married, which we still might do. But it’s great that we may be able to get married here next year, if need be,’’ Toole said.
‘’A lot of my family are getting married. Two of my brothers are engaged. I’m also engaged and would love to get married in front of my family and friends.’’
Toole and Rumpca, who has been studying and working in Wollongong for the past six years, often visit Rumpca’s family in Minnesota.
‘’It’s legal in America and we feel accepted when we are over there but when we come back here it feels strange because same sex marriage is not legal. This is a nice feeling. It feels good to feel equal,’’ Rumpca said.
UOW student and marriage equality activist Joshua Bell was also feeling great.
‘’We’ve taken the first step to making sure myself and people like me are treated equal,’’ he said.
We’ve taken the first step to making sure myself and people like me are treated equal.Joshua Bell
‘’Obviously there are more steps to take but having that yes vote means that the public in Australia, the majority of people are supporting us and we live in a country that thinks we should be equal.
‘’Today means all of the work we’ve done, all of the work other people have done, it has been worth it and for that I’m obviously very emotional.
‘’The last couple of months have been very tough. I think now we need to stay strong and keep fighting for full equality and make sure that the only legislation we support is complete 100 per cent equality for all people.’’
This view was shared by UOW academic Hayley Scrivenor.
I think it is really important that we keep that going and we don’t think the battle is won because it is not.Hayley Scrivenor
‘’I think a lot of people have fought really hard and a lot of people have come through a lot to get us here but we need to make sure that not only do we legalise same-sex marriage but we really keep an eye and make sure this decision extends to acceptance and the respecting of rights of all queer people, particularly trans people,’’ she said.
‘’I feel happy to be part of the Wollongong community because I felt a lot of love and acceptance here but again I think it is really important that we keep that going and we don’t think the battle is won because it is not.’’