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Australia gay marriage

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Same-sex unions are treated as de facto unions under Australian federal law, though each Australian state and territory is entitled to create their own laws with respect to same-sex relationship registers and same-sex partnership schemes. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are available to same-sex couples in most states and territories. Same-sex couples are prevented from marrying by the 2004 amendments to the federal Marriage Act 1961 by the Howard Government.[1] Additionally, same-sex couples who get married in countries where same-sex marriage is legal cannot divorce within Australia when they come back due to the same-sex marriage ban.[2]

As of September 2016, 21 same-sex marriage related bills have been introduced in the Parliament of Australia, none of which have passed and become law.[3] In December 2013, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed legislation which briefly legalised same-sex marriage within the territory,[4] prompting the federal government to launch a constitutional challenge in the High Court. The High Court struck down the ACT legislation on the basis that the law was inconsistent with federal legislation, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.[5] The current Coalition Government proposed to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage in 2017, though this was rejected twice by the Australian Senate, in November 2016 and August 2017.[6][7] A nationwide voluntary survey by postal mail on same-sex marriage is being held between 12 September and 7 November 2017.

The opposition Labor Party supports same-sex marriage in its national platform, though allows its parliamentary members a conscience vote on same-sex marriage legislation.[8]



Differences between de facto relationships and marriages[edit]

Since 1 March 2009, some legal differences remain with respect to treatment of couples in a de facto relationship and heterosexual couples in a marriage.[23] Differences exist between the rights of a de facto couple and a married couple in relation to family law matters, including property settlements and entitlements to spousal maintenance. A de factorelationship must have ended for the court to make an order for property settlement or spousal maintenance, though this requirement does not exist for married couples.[24] For a de facto partner to seek an order for property settlement, the Court must be satisfied of at least one of the following:[24]

  • The period of the de facto relationship was for at least two years; or
  • There is a child in the de facto relationship; or
  • The relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory; or
  • That failure to make an order would result in serious injustice due to the significant contributions made by one party.

By way of comparison, for a married couple, it is enough merely to have been married to attract the jurisdiction of the Court for property and spousal maintenance.[24]

Furthermore, it is possible that individuals in a de facto relationship can be treated substantively different to a person in a marriage. In the event of an unexpected end to a de factorelationship (such as death of a partner), the surviving partner must often prove the existence of a relationship in order to be registered as the next of kin on a death certificate and receive government bereavement payments and access to a partner's superannuation. These requirements vary on a state by state basis. Given that same-sex couples do not have the option to marry, as heterosexual couples do, these discrepancies can have a particularly discriminatory impact on same-sex couples.[25]

In April 2014, a federal court judge ruled that a heterosexual couple who had a child and lived together for 13 years were not in a de facto relationship and thus the court had no jurisdiction to divide up their property under family law following a request for separation. In his ruling, the judge stated "de facto relationship(s) may be described as ‘marriage like’ but it is not a marriage and has significant differences socially, financially and emotionally."[26]


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A survey form, instructions, and a reply-paid envelope are being mailed out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to every Australian on the electoral roll asking them to answer the question "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?" The ABS has outlined processes to ensure eligible Australians lacking access to post can participate.[1]

The survey result is non-binding on the government if a majority vote "Yes". In the event of a majority "No" result, the Australian government will not allow a parliamentary debate nor parliamentary vote on legalising same-sex marriage, maintaining the status quo. If the result of the survey is in favour of same-sex marriage, as predicted in opinion polling, the Turnbull Government has pledged to facilitate the introduction of a private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage. This would allow a parliamentary debate and parliamentary vote in which parliamentarians would be free to vote their conscience, potentially leading to, although still not guaranteeing, the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Many same-sex marriage proponents were critical of the postal survey, viewing it as a costly delay compared to the onset of a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in the parliament.[2]

The survey was subject to legal challenges questioning the authority of the ABS to lawfully carry out the survey and whether the government had the legal right to fund the cost of the survey from funds designated by law for circumstances which are “urgent” and “unforeseen”. Both legal challenges failed, with the High Court of Australia finding the survey was lawful. There is also a legal challenge as to whether provisionally-enrolled 16- and 17-year-olds should be included in the survey.



Key dates[edit]

Key dates relating to the survey are:[27][28]

  • 24 August 2017: The final day for citizens to update or add their name and details to the electoral roll in order to receive a survey form
  • 12 September 2017: Survey forms begin to be mailed out to all Australian voters over a two week period
  • 25 September 2017: The date all survey forms are expected to have arrived
  • 20 October 2017: Requests for replacement material closes (6pm local time)
  • 27 October 2017: The date all eligible Australians will be strongly encouraged to return their form by
  • 7 November 2017 (6pm EST): Responses received after this date will not be processed
  • 15 November 2017: Statistics and integrity report released to the public



ABC talkback caller's Hitler comments[edit]

During a talkback segment on a popular ABC Radio Melbourne show, a caller identified as Don concluded his perspective on the debate by saying "Hitler had all those kind of people in their own concentration camps – it’s one of the two good things he did. The other one was to build the autobahns.".[129] Host Jon Faine asked the caller to repeat his statement before terminating the call. ABC management apologised for airing the comments but defended their decision not to review the talkback call vetting process.[130]


The advertising agency, "The Royals", described as a "leading advertising agency behind the push for same-sex marriage",[131][132] and backed by more than 500 employees from Australian advertising agencies and media companies, is refusing to work for companies campaigning against the cause. The boycott has been criticised as an attack on free speech but has been defended "as being no different to refusing to work for a tobacco company".[133][131]

The first television ad for the "No" campaign featured three women and focused on the Safe Schools education program.[134] The ad was criticised as being inaccurate, and for linking the survey (and same-sex marriage in general) to Safe Schools.[135] Mothers of transgender children criticised the ad for bringing their children into the debate.[136] The women had previously been active campaigners against Safe Schools: Heidi McIvor,[137][138] Cella White,[139] and Pansy Lai.[140][141] McIvor said her family has been abused and her church threatened with violence.[138]

The "Yes" campaign aired a rebuttal advertisement [142] and released a new advertisement featuring world champion swimmer Ian Thorpe on 7 September. [143]

As of September, the "no" campaign had spent $312,000 on TV advertising, and the "yes" campaign had spent $64,000.[144] On the same day Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made a personal donation of $1 million to the "yes" campaign.[145]

Legislation has been passed and commenced that make it "illegal to vilify, intimidate or threaten another person based on their views during the ... survey",[146] with a fine of $12,600 attached to this. Furthermore, all campaign material must be authorised.[147]

Advocacy by state, territory and local governments[edit]

Territory government

The ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, made an emotional plea to fellow assembly members to support the use of significant government resources for promotional campaigns on public buses and flagpoles in Canberra. He also said the government was considering "creating rainbow roundabouts and commissioning rainbow-themed murals". This was criticised by the opposition party, the Canberra Liberals.[148][149] ACT Public Sector Standards Commissioner, Bronwen Overton-Clarke said public servants had not been tasked to "to actively participate in this survey".[150] The government's pro-same-sex marriage campaign is estimated to cost of $45,000 and will be "funded out of the existing budget".[151] In August, two Canberra buses were covered in rainbows.[152]

Local government

The City of Darebin announced it will write to local churches and allow "Yes" campaigners to use council facilities and services for free in the lead up to the postal survey on same-sex marriage and to bar "No" campaigners from using council facilities.[153] The council subsequently "watered down" its plans to oppose the "No" side in this way following community pressure.[154] The City of Sydney is campaigning for a "Yes" result, with a budget of $110,000, including displaying rainbow flags, mailing out material supporting a yes response.[155][156]

In rejecting a council motion for the Brisbane City Council to support the "Yes" vote, the Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk said, "the public does not like to be told by the government how to vote".[157]

Australian Christian Lobby office[edit]

The Australian Christian Lobby's reply-paid address has been used to send glitter bombs and other material to the ACL.[158] Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton has said that the group has received death threats and eggs have been thrown at its office.[159][160] When several packages containing white powder were mailed (necessitating the evacuation of 30 staff at the Canberra mail-centre) both Lyle Shelton and Alex Greenwich of Australian Marriage Equality said the marriage debate should remain respectful.[159][160][161]

Benjamin Law's comments[edit]

In September 2017, Australian author and journalist Benjamin Law said, "Sometimes find myself wondering if I’d hate-fuck all the anti-gay MPs in parliament if it meant they got the homophobia out of their system", and referring specifically to Andrew Hastie MP said, "sighs heavily, unzips pants".[162][163]


Organisations such as the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference have said that best interests of children are important in this debate.[164][165]The Australian National Imams Council say that the, "family unit is at the heart of a healthy society, and in this context, the right of children to be cared for and raised by both a mother and father is one that must be protected".[166] Same-sex adoption is already legal in every Australian state, however.[167]

After a statement was made against same-sex families with children by a politician, The Conversation cited research showing children can be raised just as well (and sometimes better) by parents of the same gender. It also said that children with same-gender parents stand to benefit if their parents are granted the freedom to marry.[168] A petition has been signed by "hundreds of doctors" saying that there is "peer-reviewed evidence of poorer outcomes for children of same-sex parented families".[169]

The editor of Guardian Australia, Lenore Taylor has said that the paper will not, "be giving equal-time to spurious arguments" saying, "the 'No' camp will try to contort this issue into anything other than what it is" - namely same-sex marriage.[170]

Counselling for those impacted[edit]

For LGBTIQ people for whom the debate may be having an negative impact, helplines, strategies and counsellors have been made available by a number of organisations including the ABC,[171][172] Defence (DEFGLIS),[173] Victorian local councils[174] and Alfred Health.[175] Information from, and links to, further resources including Beyond Blue, the Aids Council of New South Wales, the Victorian Aids Council, Queerspace and the Safe Schools program, are also available.[174] The WA Greens called for more government funding for LGBTIQ mental health services to be made available during the marriage survey,[176] with an extra $60,000 subsequently allocated.[177] The Victorian Government has provided $500,000 extra for support services.[178] The Queensland Government has allocated an extra $338,000, "to protect the mental health of the LGBTI community in the lead up to the postal vote".[179] The Australian Psychological Society has released a guide for parents about how to talk to their children about the debate.[180] Lifeline has reported a spike in calls about the postal survey.[181]

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union has expressed concerns about the risk to the welfare of posties forced to deliver the postal survey if it is against their beliefs.[182]

Flyers targeting local elections[edit]

Anonymous flyers that link the postal survey to local council elections have been circulated in western and south-western Sydney.[183]

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion[edit]

Some conservative politicians and others have raised the issue of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Tony Abbott has said he urges a "No" vote to reject "political correctness" and protect "religious freedom".[184] The Catholic church has raised freedom-of-speech concerns following a prior experience, in which an archbishop was taken to an anti-discrimination commission for explaining the Christian view of marriage.[165] The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) has said without seeing what is proposed, "it is impossible to . . . ensure Catholic schools can continue to teach the Catholic view of marriage".[185] Former Prime Minister John Howard has said the government needs to provide more detail on the religious exemptions.[186]

It has been argued that religious organisations can access exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and, consequently, will remain free to refuse same-sex marriage if it is eventually introduced.[87] Some conservative politicians have also suggested that religious exemptions should be expanded to individuals and businesses providing goods and services.[187][188] It has been argued that unlike performing marriage sacraments, providing goods and services is not a religious act.[189]

Federal Minister Christopher Pyne has said that the survey is about marriage and has nothing to do with freedom of speech or religious freedom.[190] The Attorney-General, George Brandis has similarly said that he will not be "fighting the debate on broader issues" and that freedoms are protected under current law and any future bill would have very thorough further measures.[191][192]

The National Liberal Party President said, to say any future same-sex marriage legislation, "would damage religious freedom is deliberately misleading",[107] while the Vice President said that there are, "very real consequences in terms of freedom of speech, religion and association".[193]

The response to a Newspoll question, "Do you think parliament should provide guarantees in law for freedom of conscience, belief and religion if it legislates for same-sex marriage?" was Yes 62%, Oppose 18%, Uncommitted 20%, with Labor voters providing the strongest support at 68%.[126]

Within organisations

Leaders of organisations such as Qantas and Deakin University have advocated their views on marriage. Concerns have been raised as to the implications for their staff and students respectively.[194][195] Following same-sex marriage endorsements on behalf of the NSW Law Society, lawyers have resigned. Similarly doctors have criticised and resigned from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) following that organisation implying that its members support same-sex marriage, with concerns raised regarding the research quoted by the AMA into the welfare of children.[196][197] A coalition of barristers have asked the NSW Bar Association to "apologise and immediately withdraw the endorsement".[198]

FreeTV determination[edit]

The group FreeTV Australia, representing the free-to-air commercial networks, pulled from broadcasting, a Father's Day ad, which showed a father singing his daughter a lullaby. The organisation 'Dads4Kids' was told that their ad, "potentially contains political matter" and was therefore unsuitable to be aired in its current form.[199][200] According to a press release from FreeTV, the ad was pulled because "The advertiser was requested, but declined, to add an identification tag to the commercial to comply with Schedule 2 of the Broadcasting Services Act".[201] The determination also prevented the ad being run under the provisions of, 'Community Service Announcement' regulations.[202] Dads4Kids support the existing definition of marriage, arguing in a 2014 Senate submission that same-sex marriage would constitute "a major distortion or disordering of the male or female gender". [203] Just Equal spokesman Ivan Hinton-Teoh stated the group was engaging in a "dodgy campaign tactic" to claim victimhood in the same-sex marriage debate.[203]

Incident outside a Brisbane church[edit]

A meeting was rescheduled to a Brisbane church to discuss safe schools issues. Protesters, supporting the "Yes" campaign, were outside. Police were in attendance. A protester said, "people drove their cars nearly at full speed into the Yes campaigners". The protesters said there were injuries. A protester rang 000, saying there was an emergency. Senior politicians called for calm.[204][205][206] The proceedings were video recorded. Ambulance officers and the police dismissed the protesters' allegations saying, "there was no record of any cars hurtling towards protesters, nor any other assault or injury".[207]

Neo-Nazi posters[edit]

It was widely reported that a poster urging a "No" vote and bearing links to Neo-Nazi white supremacist groups was displayed in Melbourne, prompting outrage.[208][209] A number of inconsistencies relating to this event were raised,[210][211] and Channel 10 was forced to apologise for broadcasting a photoshopped image of the poster. The City of Melbourne, when investigating the area where the poster was said to be found, could not find any.[212] Other posters have been found,[213] and the Antipodean Resistance group has claimed responsibility.[214]


Image of the Melbourne rally in August 2017

Some of the "largest LGBTI demonstrations in Australian history" occurred in the lead-up to the postal survey in various cities.[215] On 27 August, approximately 20,000 people attended a rally in Melbourne calling on the government to legalise same-sex marriage,[216] whilst on 10 September more than 30,000 people gathered in Sydney's CBD supporting a "Yes" vote in the survey.[217]

A Sydney University protest supporting the "No" campaign was interrupted by a larger counter-protest of "Yes" supporters, which allegedly resulted in "physical assault", however an individual observing the incident told The Sydney Morning Heraldthat there was only "quite a heated verbal confrontation, the worst was someone putting a megaphone in someone else's face". Police intervened.[218][219][220][221]

Standards for ABC media coverage[edit]

An interview by ABC presenter Joe O'Brien with Lyle Shelton was the subject of a complaint by the Australian Christian Lobby. Bringing up Ian Thorpe's swimming achievements, O'Brien asked Shelton "what right do you have to participate in that joy, and take national pride in those achievements, if you now deny him the right to feel like an equal and experience the joy of marriage?"[222] In rejecting any perceived bias, the ABC said that as a devil's advocate question it was "not inconsistent with standards".[223][224] Neil Mitchell from radio 3AW said it was a "disgraceful piece of television".[222]

Tim Minchin's song[edit]

Australian performer Tim Minchin performed "I Still Call Australia Homophobic"[225][226] – a re-work of Peter Allen's, "I Still Call Australia Home" – that refers to those supporting the "No" case as homophobic and "bigoted cunts". Minchin's song has been viewed more than 4 million times. He was criticised by politicians Tony Abbott and Mitch Fifield and conservative columnist Gerard Henderson.[227][228][229]

Use of Meghan Trainor's image[edit]

A Facebook ad using a photograph of American singer Meghan Trainor connected with her single, No, implying that the singer would vote no, was criticised by Trainor, who advocated for same-sex marriage. Those responsible apologised.[230]

Wedding cancelled[edit]

The Presbyterian church of Ebenezer St John’s in Ballarat has cancelled the wedding of a couple after they posted their support for same-sex marriage on Facebook. Malcolm Turnbull supported the church's decision.[231]


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44 minutes ago, Bruce said:

Frankly, I'm just happy this vote is over. It was brutal.

I honestly don't get why the government had to spend $122 million on a glorified poll when they could very well have just seen the results that polling companies  showed. IMHO, they should have either made it a straight up binding referendum or just started debating it in Parliament already.

But then again, I know nothing about Australian politics, so perhaps this whole postal survey business might make more sense to someone down under.

Edited by Jonathan
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As a Catholic I disagree with the vote or ever recognizing it as "Marriage".........but I do have to admit that it was very sweet the way he proposed.

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Suddenly occured to me, seeing this thread title, that you may not have seen this reaction from an Aussie politician. It's peak Australia.


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Kind of like this example..........lack of grammar made it sound different than it was supposed to be as far as segues between 2 independent thoughts.


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