In all Australian states and territories, cohabiting same-sex couples are recognised as de facto couples, and have the same legal rights as heterosexual de facto couples. However, same-sex marriages are currently not permitted under Australian federal, state or territory law.
On 30 August 2012, Tasmania made the news headlines when its lower house of Parliament became the first in Australia to pass a bill to legalise same-sex marriage when the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012 was passed by 13 votes to 11.
There has been some heated debate over the constitutional validity of laws made by states and territories pertaining to same-sex marriage. The prevailing view appears to be that while the states and territories have the power to legislate on same-sex marriage, any laws made may be invalid or inoperative to the extent that they are inconsistent with the federal Marriage Act 1961. Ultimately, the question is one for the High Court to answer.
Tasmania’s upper house of Parliament will consider the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2012 when Parliament sits in late September 2012. Stay tuned.
This article provides information that is general in nature and not a substitute for legal advice. Please contact the author if you wish to obtain legal advice for your personal situation.