Marriage Equality – What We Know So Far

Hooray hooray! Sanity prevailed and we had an overwhelming YES result from our postal survey that asked the question – “should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
I’m straight and married and I’m bloody glad that is all over, I can’t even begin to imagine how the LGBTI+ community feels! Well done to everyone who had the difficult conversations, campaigned with passion and voted with their greater community in mind, we did it xx

Breakdown of the result from the survey here:

ABS Marriage Equality Survey Results

So now what? If you’re in a same sex relationship you are most probably wondering what this means should you want to get married in the near future – here is what we know for sure so far.

First up, here is the latest notice from the Attorney General’s website:

(Current as of 17th November 2017)

“The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 (‘Dean Smith Bill’) was introduced into the Senate on 15 November 2017. The requirements set out in the Marriage Act 1961 remain in place until such time as an Act of Parliament changes them. As such, celebrants are currently not able to accept a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) from same-sex couples.

The date from which same-sex weddings could occur in Australia will depend on the date the Australian law is changed to allow same-sex marriage.

The final form of amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 is a matter for the Parliament. The department is unable to provide advice on the likely form of any legislative amendments, including amendments in relation to religious freedoms and protections.

The department will communicate advice to celebrants and the public about changes to the Marriage Act 1961 as soon as possible after the passage of any amendments.”

So basically nothing can happen until the legislation passes through government and all the forms celebrants use in order to legally marry a couple have been updated. We have been given no concrete information as to when this might happen, although there are some articles floating around that mention things could be happening as early as January 2018. As celebrants we cannot say in any way, shape or form at this stage that this is timeframe is guaranteed:

SMH – Same-Sex couples still months away from tying the knot in Australia

Under the current section 42 of the Marriage Act, couples wishing to get legally married in Australia must give a minimum of one months written notice of their intention to marry. This must be given in the form of a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) and this timeframe is not likely to change.

We definitely know that a celebrant cannot accept a NOIM from a same-sex couple at this time in anticipation of the law changing. The NOIM’s in existence are still gender specific (ie they have BRIDE and GROOM columns) and are only current under the Marriage Act as it stands in this moment.

This means that –

  1. the date from which same-sex weddings could occur in Australia depends on the date the law is changed to allow same-sex marriage
  2. couples will still need to give a minimum of one calendar months notice of their intent to marry from the date same-sex marriage is legalised (most likely)

There are a limited number of circumstances where a shortening of time can be granted to a couples notice of intent that are limited to employment‑related or other travel commitments, binding wedding or celebration arrangements, medical reasons and legal proceedings. Shortening of time is granted at the discretion of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state and also cannot be guaranteed by your celebrant.

Lastly, it is looking very likely that same-sex couples married overseas will have their marriages recognised legally in Australia retrospectively once the law has passed (if married in a country that Australia would normally recognise). This means all the lovely couples that made the hop, skip and jump over the ditch to NZ to get hitched will have their unions recognised here (hopefully) – no need to blow your budget twice!!

NB: All of this info has been gathered via the AFCC (a large celebrant network I belong to), news articles and emails from the Attorney Generals Dept, as such it is the best and most accurate guide I can give you at this time – but please don’t make any assumptions about when you will be able to get legally married as I would hate for anyone to be disappointed. At this stage your celebrant can book you in for a commitment ceremony and keep you in the loop regarding the timeframes as we hear about them – if anyone is offering to fill in any paperwork for you now (other than personally produced fee schedules or booking forms) you may end up being in a pickle as we currently have no legal same-sex paperwork to offer you at this time!

As always, I am here to answer any questions that you might have about all this and if I don’t have the correct info straight up I have access to the latest legal info for you from the correct channels.   We’ve come this far – lets do this right!