When Drew Reid proposed to Father Noel Richards, it was an evening like any other for the Bendigo couple.
"We were down at Queenscliff for the Grand Final weekend last year," Drew said. "It was that week when there was publicity about the Uniting Church saying their churches would officiate same-sex marriages.
"So we were talking about that on the way down. Then on the Saturday night after a couple of wines with dinner, I just said Noel Richards, will you marry me? His jaw dropped and he agreed.
"I gave him a two-week cooling off period to change his mind," Drew laughed. "But he didn't."
Father Noel, who said he only realised he was gay when he entered his 60s, said one of the most important evenings of his life was also one of the most normal ones.
"It was the most ordinary thing in the world," Father Noel laughed. "He said that and I said yes, I will and then we went on talking about something else.
"It was just so matter-of-fact and ordinary, which was really good. It just seemed so normal and right and ok. No big balloons or anything. Then after dinner I said, did you mean it?"
Despite the ordinary nature of their proposal, the couple's wedding will be a moment to be remembered.
Drew and Father Noel, who have been together for more than five years, will be the first same-sex couple to be married in a church in Bendigo.
But while Father Noel has been an ordained priest of the Anglican Church for more than 40 years, the couple will be married at St Andrew's Uniting Church instead of St Paul's Cathedral.
Despite that setback, Drew said the support from the people of St Paul's was undeniable.
"The congregation has just loved Noel and when they heard about our relationship they were just really excited for us," Drew said.
"In terms of the wedding, there's about 80 parishioners invited and attending. The only ones who said no are overseas or in hospital having surgery or something. Everybody else is all on board and embraced it."
The couple's marriage comes at an interesting time for the Anglican Church in Australia. Earlier this month, the Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta broke from tradition and voted to bless same-sex marriages.
The Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta voted 67-18 in favour of the blessings, but the historic decision is now being challenged by the Anglican Church of Australia.
Regardless of the legal outcome, Anglican Diocese of Bendigo Bishop Matt Brain indicated a similar change to allow blessings of same-sex marriages would not be happening in his diocese.
But Bishop Brain said the church would continue to support every parishioner regardless of their sexuality.
Father Noel said while it was disappointing Bendigo would not be following in Wangaratta's footsteps, it was exciting to see that a regional city had voted for such progressive change.
"It's inevitable that it had to start somewhere," Father Noel said. "I personally think it's terrific that it's started in a little country town rather than a trendy place like North Fitzroy or somewhere.
"It just shows that country people aren't homophobic and all of the images you get are not necessarily true. I think it shows the great care that country people have for other people."
Drew said he has experienced that sense of care and compassion from people in Bendigo for much of his adult life.
The 65-year-old, who has been open about his sexuality since he was young, said he did face some homophobia from the Anglican Church when he was a teenager.
But for the most part, he has received love and support from those around him.
"I've always been treated like a couple with my partners," Drew said. "There's never been any issues - a bit of discrimination and stuff in the early days with the church - but most of my life has been really, really cruisey."
Despite feeling so grounded in himself, Drew said the result of the same-sex marriage plebiscite in November 2017 really touched him.
"Up until the 'yes' vote, I was like, oh I don't need marriage anyway," Drew said. "I'm a gay man, I don't need kids. Marriage is only an institution that some people need.
"But the 'yes' vote was a really cathartic thing for me. Even up to the day of the vote, I didn't really think it was going to go because the 'no' campaign was so hateful.
"I thought anyone who was bordering on deciding would go 'no'. But then bang, 61 per cent voted 'yes' and it was like wow. It was this big wave that hit me and I didn't expect it."
The Australian public voted in favour of same-sex marriage, with a majority of 61.6 per cent.
People in the Bendigo electorate also returned a 'yes' vote of 68.7 per cent, which was higher than both the Australian and Victorian results.
"I didn't realise that I felt unequal until I became equal," Drew said. "It was a really emotional thing. For a week or so, there were these emotions of anger, sadness, and joy. And it still gets to me."
Father Noel, who came to realise his sexuality much later in life, was also surprised by the level of emotion the decision brought him.
"I was gobsmacked and it just stunned me," he said. "I thought if this is how things could be for all minorities then what an amazing place Australia could be."
The couple have been fully welcomed by St Andrew's Uniting Church where they will be married in October.
"I would really like to acknowledge St Andrew's and Reverend Di Esbensen in terms of their excitement and courage in doing this." Drew said.
"Our marriage is going to be the first same-sex church wedding in Bendigo. Other gay couples have been married in civil ceremonies but this is the first church wedding.
"I think it's really great because we can't do it in St Paul's at the one end of Myers Street, so we've moved 300 yards up to St Andrew's where we can."
The couple were unsure if their marriage would be welcomed, but they said they have been pleasantly surprised by the response.
"I said to Noel, if you need to talk to the Bishop about this, and if it's in any way going to affect your licence to be a priest, then I won't go ahead with it because Noel's whole life has been in the Church," Drew said.
But Father Noel said even if there had been push back, nothing was going to stop them from getting married.
"I said if they say I can't go ahead with it, we're going to do it anyway," he said.
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