Two gay bi-national men who fought to be allowed to get married in a South African prison have finally tied the knot at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Johannesburg.
South African Gregg Wiggill and Australian John Pettigrew now have the dubious honour of being the first gay couple to be married in a South African detention centre, reported the Sunday Times on the weekend.
The two men were arrested for fraud and were initially denied the right to marry by the Department of Correctional Services while awaiting trial in an East London prison.
While they at first were allowed to stay in the same cell, they later laid a discrimination complaint against the prison head after they were separated following claims that they had been caught having sex.
Wiggill, dubbed the Melville Fraudster, and Pettigrew were accussed of defrauding members of Johannesburg’s gay and lesbian community in 2008 and 2009; including customers of the city’s then popular Oh Bar.
After being arrested and released pending trial, they went on the run until they were rearrested. Wiggill was eventually handed a suspended sentence while Pettigrew was acquitted.
Their plans to marry were then further stymied when Pettigrew was placed in the repatriation centre in October last year as his visitor’s visa had expired. The Department of Home Affairs also refused to allow them to wed because Pettigrew was an illegal immigrant.
The couple took the matter to the Johannesburg High Court, which ruled in their favour and ordered the department to let the men marry.
On Friday, they finally exchanged vows. The Times said that Wiggill wept as he placed a ring that belonged to his father on Pettigrew’s finger.
“We’ve fought hard for this,” Pettigrew told the newspaper. “This is the first time we’ve touched each other in six months.”
The couple now plan to apply for Pettigrew to stay in the country as Wiggill’s spouse.