Elderly gay couple want right to marry before they die

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A gay couple in their eighties say they want the right to marry each other before either of them passes away.

John Challis, 87 and his partner Arthur Cheeseman, 83 – who live in Sydney, Australia – have been in a relationship for nearly fifty years but now say they want the right to marry before either of them passes away.

“Arthur and I have lived together for 48 years. We’ve been a very normal suburban kind of couple,” Mr Challis said.

“We were just sort of very compatible and just grew together year after year after year, and here we are looking after each other in our old age.”

And with Mr Cheeseman’s health ailing – he now has trouble seeing and hearing – Mr Challis says time really is of the essence.

“He is getting frail,” he shared.

“What we feel is that recognising gay marriage would simply crown the whole process of gay rights and give gay people exactly the same status and dignity in society as heterosexual people,” he added.

Mr Challis believes that the change in legislation cannot come until Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott abandons his faith-based opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“I’m sure our relationship is just as devoted as his is and why [should] we be looked at in any different way?”

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage with cross-party support was introduced in the Australian parliament on Monday.

Warren Entsch introduced the bill, which is expected to fail due to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government being opposed.

“This bill is designed to promote an inclusive Australia, not a divided one,” said Entsch.

“A divided nation is what we will be if we continue to allow discrimination in relation to marriage on the basis of a person’s sexuality.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week declared he will sack any ministers who defy him and vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

A number same-sex marriage bills are heading to the Australian Parliament this month but Abbott – a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – has banned his coalition MPs from voting in favour.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that Abbott’s ruling coalition voted by 66 to 33 in favour of banning coalition MPs from voting for equality – ordering them to follow party line and oppose same-sex marriage.