On Friday the 1st December 2006, at 11am; Vernon Gibbs (38) and Tony Halls (52) got married in South Africa's first gay marriage. The men exchanged wedding bands and were pronounced a married couple (Vernon gave Tony a simple golden Russian wedding band, while Tony gave Vernon an elaborate thick gold band with a large diamond in the centre). The couple wore ranger outfits to the ceremony (they run the Arendhoogte Guest lodge and animal rehabilitation centre in Riversdal, which was attacked last year after it was marketed to gay tourists). This gay couple tied the knot in the home affairs building in George, a town in the the Western Cape province of South Africa. The marriage officer was Petro Kruger, a Home Affairs Official.
The couple have changed their surnames - Vernon Gibbs (a British citizen) will now be known as Vernon Gibbs-Halls, whilst Tony Halls (a South Africa) will be known as Tony Halls-Gibbs.
"This marriage... is for all HIV/AIDS sufferers and gay people who have experienced discrimination. I just have one message I would like to give to everybody that we are just two men who love each other and who have loved each other for a long time." Vernon. Tony said: “It gives us as a couple a lot more security when it comes to pension, property and bank accounts.” Another spinoff is that Tony will be entitled to a European Union passport.
Witnesses to the marriage were Lorraine Jansen (one of Vernon's students) and "Chookie" Hiseman - a close friend.
The couple first met at a gay bar in London and say it was love at first sight.
The couple were first "married" by a gay pastor in London on the 1st June 2002, but that marriage was not legally recognised.
Their planned honeymoon to India is planned for November 2007 because there are too many newborn animals on their farm which require attention.
George was also the site of the second gay marriage in South Africa, at 2pm.
Vernon and Tony received two anonymous death death threats on their cellphones - "You might have been the first to get married, but you'll be the first to die." And another said "Ons gaan julle moffies dood maak (we're going to kill you gays)".