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Marriage equality in Australia

From 9 December 2017, sex or gender no longer affects the right to marry under Australian law and same-sex marriage became legal in Australia.

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 commenced on 9 December 2017. This Act amended the Marriage Act 1961 to redefine marriage as 'the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life'.

Requirements to marry in Australia

The conditions for a valid marriage have not changed. Under Australian law, a couple must wait at least one month to marry after giving an authorised celebrant a completed Notice of Intended Marriage form. In certain circumstances, a couple can seek permission from a prescribed authority to marry earlier. More information is available on the Getting married page.

The Notice of Intended Marriage form was updated on 9 December 2017, and is available on the Marriage stationery and forms page. From 9 December 2017, the new Notice of Intended Marriage form must be used. Information about changes to the marriage forms following the commencement of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, is available in the fact sheet below:

Authorised celebrants

There are three types of authorised celebrants who can solemnise a marriage within Australia:

  • ministers of religion of recognised denominations
  • marriage celebrants (including ministers of religion of non-recognised denominations, and religious marriage celebrants)
  • state and territory officers.

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 changes some marriage solemnisation requirements. More information is available in the following fact sheet:

The Act provides protections for ministers of religion and some marriage celebrants to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. More information is available in the following fact sheet:

Ministers of religion

Ministers of religion can continue to exercise their religious beliefs to impose additional conditions for a marriage or to refuse to solemnise a marriage. This is the case for all ministers of religion, regardless of whether or not their religious organisation is proclaimed as a recognised denomination under the Marriage Act.

Ministers of religion can also continue to use a form or ceremony of marriage recognised as sufficient by their religious organisation.

Ministers of religion who do not belong to a recognised denomination are required to state the new legal definition of marriage as part of a marriage ceremony. If they wish, ministers can also explain, during the ceremony, the meaning of marriage according to their religious organisation's doctrines or beliefs.

Marriage celebrants

From 9 December 2017, all marriage celebrants, including religious marriage celebrants, are required to state the new legal definition of marriage as part of a marriage ceremony.

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 created a new subcategory of marriage celebrants, called 'religious marriage celebrants'. All marriage celebrants who are a religious marriage celebrant are able to exercise their religious beliefs to refuse to solemnise a marriage.

Religious marriage celebrants are required to comply with existing requirements imposed on all marriage celebrants. These include paying the annual celebrant registration charge, undertaking ongoing professional development activities and complying with the Code of Practice for marriage celebrants.

Marriage celebrants registered on or before 9 December 2017 who are also a minister of religion, automatically became religious marriage celebrants.

Marriage celebrants who were registered on or before 9 December 2017 who are not a minister of religion had until 9 March 2018 to choose to become a religious marriage celebrant, to make clear on the register and in their advertising that they hold religious beliefs.

Current and future applicants for registration as a marriage celebrant may only elect to be identified as a religious marriage celebrant if they are a minister of religion.

More information is available in the following fact sheet:

State and territory officers

In many (but not all) states and territories, government officers are authorised to solemnise marriages. State and territory officers will be required to state the new legal definition of marriage as part of a marriage ceremony.

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Foreign same-sex marriages

From 9 December 2017, the Marriage Act recognises existing and future same-sex marriages solemnised overseas under the law of a foreign country. Same-sex marriages solemnised in Australia by a diplomatic or consular officer under the law of a foreign country before 9 December 2017 are also recognised. A couple whose foreign same-sex marriage is recognised in Australia cannot marry each other again in Australia, unless there is doubt as to the validity of the foreign marriage. It is, however, possible for couples to hold another type of ceremony, such as a confirmation of vows or a recommitment ceremony.

Family law and same-sex divorce in Australia and overseas

Same‑sex couples whose marriages are recognised can access Australia's family law system (including divorce), regardless of when the marriage was solemnised. The divorces of same‑sex couples who divorced overseas before 9 December 2017 are also recognised in Australia.

Same‑sex couples who divorce overseas on or after 9 December 2017 will have their divorce recognised in Australia in the same circumstances as any other married couple. More information is available on the Federal Circuit Court website.

All same‑sex married couples (including those who married overseas before 9 December 2017) are, from 9 December 2017, married couples for the purposes of family law. This may have some implications for same‑sex couples who were married overseas and who had pending family law proceedings on 9 December 2017, who are parties to a financial agreement made before 9 December 2017, or who were benefiting from a maintenance order from a previous relationship. More information is available in the following fact sheet.

Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey

On 15 November 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the results of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. A total of 12.7 million (79.5%) of eligible Australians expressed their view, with the majority (61.6%) indicating that the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. All states and territories recorded a majority 'Yes' response.

For information about the survey, visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

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