Small town's first same-sex wedding inspires change of heart
IT'S A modern love story: man from a small town moves to the city, falls in love and eventually takes the love of his life home to get married.
But Malcome Mitchell and Ian McDonald aren't just any love story, they're inspiring change in the hearts of those who voted overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage.
Their wedding in Mitchell - the town in which Malcome grew up - was set along the Maranoa River on Saturday, in front of 104 of their loved ones.
"It was a bit more emotional than I expected," Malcome said.
"Having it in my home town and having my mum - who has dementia - able to come to the ceremony was something really special.
"I wheeled her down the aisle but it was great to have her there. I had my sister June and brother Peter by my side and Ian had his besties Mel Snape and Alison Kevan as his party.
"Our dog, Kronk, was our ring bearer. He caused a bit of drama when he went for a swim with the rings and lost them briefly."
Ian, originally from Brisbane, brought his family out west for the big day, also accompanied by his mum down the aisle.
"It was great to have a lot of my family come out from Brisbane, they really liked the cultural aspects of the wedding and getting to meet Mal's family," Ian said.
"As part of the ceremony we had a welcome to country dance and Lynette Nixon gave the welcome to country - which was really special."
After meeting in Brisbane in 2006, the couple moved in together in 2009.
They told The Western Star they never cared much about getting married until the same-sex marriage plebiscite was called in 2017.
"During the vote it was in our face for a few months, there was a lot of advertisement about it," Ian said. "We had a conversation about it and we both said we would get married and that was the end of the conversation. When it went through as a yes vote but not through parliament I asked Mal to marry me.
"He didn't answer, he said it had to go through parliament first, it took him three months to answer."
Although the couple now live in Canberra, it was important for them to begin the next part of their lives with Malcome's family.
Believed to be the first same-sex wedding in Mitchell, the couple said they were touched by some of the bystanders who came up to congratulate them after the nuptials.
"We had a lot of people come up to us after the ceremony and say some really special things to us," Ian said.
During the 2017 plebiscite, the seat of Maranoa - stretching west from Goondiwindi to the Northern Territory border, north from Mungindi to Winton - registered the highest no vote in the state.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals of the 80,783 voters in Maranoa, 43.9 per cent voted yes, with 56.1 per cent - 45,308 people - voting no.
Their wedding photographer, Katrina Ayers, said the Saturday nuptials were a true celebration of love and was touched by the story of a bystander.
"There was an older lady who watched from afar, she approached me after the ceremony and told me about how it had touched her," Mrs Ayers said.
"She said to me 'today has just changed my mind, it's woken me up'.
"This lady had told her son and his same-sex partner that if they wanted to get married, they had to wait until they buried her first. Under no circumstances did she agree with same-sex marriage but Saturday changed her mind.
"She was so excited to go home and ring her son, give her blessing."