Two game rangers in South Africa become first gay couple in the continent to get married.
The grooms wore khakis and leather boots. Two game rangers, Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls, became the first same-sex couple to legally wed in South Africa on December 1, a day after President Thabo Mbeki's government authorised gay marriages.
Monday December 4, 2006
South Africa is the first country in Africa and the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.
Gibbs and Halls tied the knot at 11 am on Friday, another same-sex couple married at 1 pm, and several other "pink weddings" took place over the following days in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The Rev Paul Mokgethi, of the Hope and Unity Metropolitan Community Church in Johannesburg, presided over a gay wedding on December 2.
He said he was pleased at all the news coverage of the same-sex marriages as this would help to educate people, making them more tolerant of homosexuality.
Most progressive constitution in world
"We had a wonderful wedding. It was very emotional for us," Gibbs told Guardian Unlimited.
"South Africa has the most progressive constitution in the world, which protects all people against discrimination. No gay could wish for a better constitution."
Gibbs, 38, and Halls, 51, run a guest lodge and animal rehabilitation centre in Riversdal, near the tourist centre of George, on the southwestern coast of South Africa.
Halls is British, and the couple first pledged loyalty to each other nine years ago in London, though that union was not legally recognised as a marriage.
"As soon as it became legal in South Africa, we wanted to get married, and we got a booking at the home affairs office in George," said Gibbs.
"We are so pleased we did it on December 1, World Aids Day. We dedicate our marriage to all HIV/Aids sufferers and gay people who have experienced discrimination."
"We did not have a very romantic wedding night because we have two baby bat-eared foxes that kept us up all night wanting to be fed and cuddled. And then someone brought in a black eagle with a broken wing and we had to take care of that. Black eagles are highly endangered and very beautiful. It's been very hectic."
Many businesses hope to cash in on the same-sex marriage celebrations. The Sheraton hotel in Pretoria, in the shadow of the government's administrative offices, the Union Buildings, has already advertised to host special gay wedding functions.
A prominent jeweller in Cape Town offered a free pair of custom wedding bands, worth 20,000 rand (£1,400) to the first couple. And quick to pick up on the legalisation, one of South Africa's most popular television soap operas, Isidingo, will feature a gay marriage this week.
"When people see something on a daily basis on TV and in the media, we know how powerful it is: they get used to it and see it as something normal," said Thuli Madi, director of the gay advocacy group Behind the Mask.
Despite the new law new, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry legally, many South Africans still oppose gay marriage and homosexuality.
Conservative churches have vocally stated their opposition to the marriages, and many traditional groups denounce homosexuality as "un-African". And gay men and lesbians often face violence in Soweto and other townships across South Africa.