Same Sex Marriage and the Law


Over the past decade public support for same-sex marriage in Australia has increased by 34% (according to Australian Marriage Equality). However, despite the fact that same sex couples are treated the same as opposite sex couples under almost every area of the law, same-sex marriage is still not recognised under federal law.

In 2007 the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report Same-sex: Same Entitlements which audited the way gay and lesbian people were treated in Commonwealth legislation. In 2008, in response to the report, the Australian Government introduced reforms designed to equalise the treatment of same-sex couples and same-sex families which amended 85 Commonwealth laws.
Changes in society

Currently in Australia the laws governing the right for individuals to marry are set out in the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. The Marriage Act defines that marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

However, the Marriage Act doesn't reflect other developments in the law, for example where a person has legally changed their gender, or where a couple in a same sex relationship wishes to marry or has married in another jurisdiction.

Marriage equality is major issue currently in law reform, mainly because of the increasing numbers of people identifying as being in same sex relationships.   The 2011 Australian census counted same sex couples and their families, finding 33,714 same-sex couples. A recent paper from the Australian Institute of Family Studies also looks at same sex parented families finding around 11% of Australian gay men and 33% of lesbians have children.

According to a national study by researchers at the University of Queensland, 54% of Australian same-sex partners would marry if they had the choice. 80% of Australians in same-sex relationships support marriage equality even if they do not wish to marry.

An increasing number of nations...