FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Gay Marriage Laws in Australia

Justice Family Lawyers Sydney

Marriage equality is legal in Australia. Same-sex couples have been able to marry each other since the 9th of December 2017, when the Australian parliament passed a bill to change the definition of marriage. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 redefined marriage as “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

Previously, in the Marriage Act 1961, marriage was specifically defined as between a man and a woman. Because of the legislation from December 2017, same-sex marriages solemnised overseas are recognised in Australia. Couples who married overseas cannot legally marry each other again in Australia, although they can hold another type of ceremony, such as a confirmation of vows or a recommitment ceremony. The original marriage legislation, the Marriage Act 1961, did not initially provide a definition of marriage.

The federal government in 2004 introduced a bill to include a definition of marriage in the Act, specifying that it was a union between a man and a woman. In 2004, two countries worldwide, one American state and eight Canadian provinces had legalised same-sex marriage. The Australian government at the time also inserted into the Act a provision that foreign same-sex marriages would not be recognised as valid marriages in Australia. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 overturned this.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage came after a nationwide voluntary postal survey conducted between September and November 2017. This survey asked the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” The results were released on the 15th of November 2017: 61.6% of respondents voted “Yes” and 38.4% voted “No.” The survey was not compulsory and the government was not bound by the result. However, the new law was passed on the 7th of December and came into effect on the 9th of December 2017.


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