Family Law Library

Gay Marriage in Australia

Marriage between two members of the same gender is not legally recognized in Australia.  All of Australia grants rights to same sex couples in de facto relationships.  Some states, like NSW, Tasmania and Victoria have domestic partnership registries.  In Queensland, parties can enter into a civil partnership.

In 2004, the Australian government amended The Marriage Act 1961 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Despite this, in 2008 the Australian government enacted reforms which gave same-sex de facto couples the same rights and obligations as all other de facto couples.  These include areas of taxation, social security, health, elderly care, employment, veterans’ benefits and child support (several of these should have a link to another page on that particular right or obligation).  Many of the same laws apply regarding property division, maintenance and child custody for same-sex couples whose relationships break down.   This brings the 33,714 couples who declared they are in same-sex relationships in the 2011 census that much closer to legal marriage.

Some states allow same-sex couples to register their unions officially, as civil partnerships or under another name.  In Victoria, couples may register their relationships with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.  Interstate unions, however, are not recognized in Victoria.

But a de facto relationship is not the same as a marriage.  In order to be recognized as a partner in a de facto relationship, a couple must meet certain criteria not required of married couples.  For example, de facto couples must prove they live together “as a couple”, which is determined by a list of conditions including the length of the relationship, whether or not a sexual relationship exists, the acquisition, ownership and use of property, and whether others view them as a couple.  No such requirements exist for married couples.