Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Same-sex marriage pioneers split

Poem on Facebook suggests gay couple first to wed on day of law change have parted less than a year later

Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali. Picture / Natalie Slade
Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali. Picture / Natalie Slade

New Zealand's first legally married same-sex couple is believed to have split.

Former Football Ferns player Melissa Ray and sales representative Natasha (Tash) Vitali won a ZM Radio competition to have an all-expenses-paid wedding in the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby at 8am on the day same-sex marriage became legal last August.

They went by horse-drawn carriage to a reception at the Cloud on the Auckland waterfront, followed by a honeymoon paid for by Tourism Fiji. But less than a year later, it seems to be all over.

A poem on Ms Vitali's Facebook page yesterday read:

Drink it down, laugh it off,

Avoid the drama, take chances,

And never have regrets

Because at one point everything you did

Was exactly what you wanted.

There were no photos of Ms Ray on the page, which was later removed after the Herald made inquiries.

Asked to confirm the split, Ms Vitali told a reporter politely: "It's not anyone's business, we'll just leave it at that, but thank you for calling.

"I'm not talking to you about my private life, we got enough coverage when we got married."

Labour MP Louisa Wall, who introduced the same-sex marriage bill and spoke at the wedding, said: "It is inappropriate for me to comment."

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Ms Ray, who was 29 at the time of the wedding, heard that she and Ms Vitali, 37, had won the radio competition on the day of the funeral of her mother, Inez Ray, who had died suddenly just a few days before.

Ms Vitali said at the time that she had proposed to Ms Ray a year earlier and they had an engagement party in November 2012, but had not set a date for what would then have been a civil union because of the cost.

"If we were going to do it, it was always going to cost money, so it was something we got around to when we got around to it. It probably would have been next year," she said then.

But she said she jumped at the chance of a free wedding when she saw the radio contest advertised on the Gay NZ website, and the couple decided to go ahead despite Inez Ray's death.

There were 668 same-sex marriages between August and the end of March.

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