Gay marriage in Australia? Have you heard the talk about gay marriage and civil unions?

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Gay marriage in Australia?


Is gay marriage permitted?

The Commonwealth of Australia and all the states and territories do not permit gay marriage.   In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the Legislative Assembly passed a Civil Unions Bill late on 22 August 2012.   Below is a discussion of ACT civil unions.

What is a civil union?

In the ACT, a civil union is a legally recognised relationship that has been entered into under the Civil Unions Act.  It is different to a marriage but it is to be treated for all purposes under ACT law (both legislation and common law) in the same way as a marriage.

What is a marriage?

A marriage is defined in the Commonwealth Act, Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) under section 5 to mean the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.  This excludes gay marriages.

Who may enter into a civil union?

A person may enter a union if they are an adult, not married or in a civil union or in a civil partnership (unless the person in the civil partnership is the person they propose to enter into a civil union with), and they are not eligible to marry their partner under the Marriage Act.

Can I have a civil union in the ACT if I don’t live in the ACT?

At this stage, it is a requirement that at least one of the persons intending on entering the union must live in the ACT.

What must I do in order to enter a civil union?

Notice must be given to a civil union celebrant of your intention to enter into the civil union along with:

–       Statutory declarations;

–       Identity and age Evidence; and

–       Anything else prescribed by regulation

What happens then?

The civil union celebrant must give each person written notice of the nature and effect of a civil union.

How long do I have to wait before I can enter a civil union?

It must be not earlier than a month after notice given to the civil union celebrant.

What does the civil union ceremony involve?

Once you have met the civil union requirements and attended to things required before the ceremony, the ceremony can then be conducted.  You may invite as many people as you would like, but the civil union is entered into by making declaration before a civil union celebrant and at least 1 other witness.


This information intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

If would like more information, contact our family and relationships lawyers at Claire Naidu & Co. Click here for our contact details.

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