New push for same-sex marriage in Australia

Date: May 08, 2015

Under current family law, marriage in Australia is only recognised as being between one man and one women.

However, debate over whether the country should legislate for same-sex marriage has been making headlines recently. The public, not to mention many in high profile business and political positions, support a change to the Marriage Act to include couples of the same sex.

Presently, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, with even same-sex marriages entered into in other countries not recognised as legally valid. However, some state - like NSW - allow same-sex couple to register their relationship.

However, opinion around whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under the same law is rapidly gaining support from a number of different quarters.

Results from a poll conducted by a research company Crosby Textor shows Australians overwhelmingly support changing the laws to allow for same-sex marriage. The poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality (AME) and carried out in late June 2014, found 72 per cent out of the 1000 Australians surveyed by CrosbyTextor were in support, while only 21 per cent did not wish to see the laws changed.

Mark Textor, a director at the polling company said: "The fact that nearly three-quarters of Australians support allowing gay couples to marry is exciting in itself - rarely do you get such a clear-cut endorsement.  But the really exciting part for me is the long-term trend; support rising steadily from just 38 per cent when Newspoll first posed the question a decade ago."

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 5, some of Australia's top CEOs gathered at a breakfast event to ask: "Does marriage equality matter to corporate Australia?" Their answer was a resounding yes.

The group included the chief executives from "SBS, Carnival Cruises, City of Sydney, St Vincent's Hospital, Virgin Mobile, St George and ASTRA", as well as representatives from organisations such as "Google, Boston Consulting Group, NAB, American Express, Deloitte, Macquarie Bank and Westpac", according to the media report.

Marriage law in Australia is a power reserved for the federal parliament and it is commonwealth law which defines marriage for the entire country. Some states and territories in the past have tried to legislate for same-sex marriage, but have been rebuffed by the High Court of Australia.

In a case in 2013, the ACT's same-sex marriage legislation was struck down because it was in conflict with the Family Law Act and the Marriage Act.

The Senate is looking to begin the debate on the "freedom to marry" bill after the winter-break in August.

For comparison, same-sex marriage laws have been passed in Great Britain, New Zealand and the majority of the states in the US.

For more information about the Marriage Act or any form of family law advice, contact an expert at Craddock Murray Newman.