Same-Sex Marriages Now Recognised In Australia After Bill Passes Parliament

Friday 8 December 2017 @ 1.46 p.m. | Legal Research

Same-sex couples will be able to apply to get married in Australia from tomorrow (Saturday 9 December 2017), after Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 through the House of Representatives last night.  The Bill received assent this morning (8 December 2017), and the substantive provisions of the Act will commence tomorrow.  The passage of the Act follows the nation-wide Marriage Equality postal survey, in which 61.6% of respondents voted that the law should be changed.

Speaking in Parliament just before the bill was read a third time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said:

“What a day. What a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it. Every Australian had their say and they said, 'It's fair. Get on with it,' and the parliament has got on with it and we have voted today for equality, for love. It's time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect. We respect every Australian who has voted, those who voted yes and those who voted no. This belongs to us all. This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect. For every one of us, this is a great day. It belongs to every Australian. The 45th Parliament is doing its job—delivering and getting on with it. It's fair. We've done the work and we've done it together.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said:

“Australia, we are going to make marriage equality a reality in minutes. The Australia of tomorrow begins with what we do today. At long last, LGBTIQ Australians will be equal under the law. Our law will speak for a modern Australia, inclusive and fair. Those of us in parliament, who are privileged to serve, understand that we do so with humility, the humility to recognise that the passage of this law does not, in essence, belong to us, but the credit for the passage of this law belongs to all Australians.”

The Bill In Parliament

For an overview of the Bill as it was originally introduced into Parliament, see TimeBase’s earlier article.  Following the postal survey, the most controversial issue for the Bill’s passage was whether the Bill would be amended to add additional provisions for people or organisations who did not support same-sex marriage. 

A number of politicians moved amendments to the Bill in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, including Attorney-General George Brandis, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Adam Bandt from the Greens, Senator David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party and senators from the One Nation Party. 

All substantive amendments to the Bill were defeated.  The Bill was amended by the Senate, with Senator Brandis describing these changes as “technical amendments”, necessary in order to “ensure that the provisions of this bill align with other Commonwealth law.”  He summarised the effects to the Senate as follows:

“to ensure the recognition of foreign same-sex marriages solemnised in Australia by a foreign consular or diplomatic officer prior to the commencement of the bill; to repeal section 40(5) of the Sex Discrimination Act; to make consequential amendments to a range of Commonwealth legislation necessary to implement same-sex marriage reform, such as removing gendered language; to provide transitional arrangements for family law matters, including matters currently before the courts, maintenance matters and binding financial agreements, including matters on foot in the state jurisdiction of Western Australia; to provide a transitional arrangement to enable same-sex couples to participate in a second marriage ceremony if there is doubt as to the validity of a foreign same-sex marriage solemnised prior to commencement; to provide provisions for the Attorney to make disallowable legislative instruments to determine other transitional arrangements if they are necessary to implement these reforms; and to make [other technical and consequential amendments.”

Religious freedoms in Australia will now be the subject of a review by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

The Act

The significant provisions of the Act will commence on 9 December 2017.  As couples in Australia need to lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage one month before their wedding, the first same sex marriages will be able to take place in early March 2018.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (Cth), Bill and secondary materials, available from TimeBase's LawOne service

Media Release: Marriage Equality For Australia (Attorney-General for Australia, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, 7 December 2017)

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