There have been numerous efforts in the recent past to have gay marriage legally recognised in Australia. All such attempts have been unsuccessful. The most recent example occurred in late 2013 when the High Court unanimously ruled that the ACT’s gay marriage laws were inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act 1961, and were therefore unconstitutional. This means that currently in Australia, same sex couples are treated as de facto couples for the purposes of social security, income tax and family law but are not permitted to marry. In 2004, in response to reforms legalising same-sex marriage in a number of overseas jurisdictions, the Federal Government amended the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) to define marriage as between a man and a woman only. In addition, the amendments to the Marriage Act expressly precluded the recognition of same-sex marriages conducted overseas.
Traditionally, arguments against same sex marriages have been that marriage is the framework in which heterosexual couples have traditionally created and raised children, and it is argued that this is the ideal environment in which to do so. However, 2006 census data indicates that the nuclear family, comprising of heterosexual couples with children, no longer represents the majority of family forms. In fact, only 45.3% of families fall within this structure. In addition, the percentage of people getting married has also decreased from 53.3% in 1996, to 49.6% in 2006.
This has not changed the current or past Governments stance on same-sex marriage, both of whom maintain, that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, many countries around the world such as the United States (certain jurisdictions) and some European countries such as Belgium, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, and France have provisions for same sex civil marriages.
What you need to know if you are in a same sex relationship in Western Australia
In Western Australia, unlike the rest of Australia, same sex couples are governed by the Family Court Act 1997 which incorporates de facto relationships and related property matters. In all other Australian states and territories the Family Law Act 1975 covers all matters involving property and children’s issues, whether couples are married or not.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.