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So where to from here, and what does it mean for same sex rights?
It was an awesome sight to see how Australia stood still to hear the news that, we the people, voted in the majority to legally allow same sex couples to marry. The emotion and expression from so many who have been waiting for this day for so long were touching (even for us seasoned Family Lawyers). This is a truly progressive and historic day for Australia and a clear message of acceptance of those in our community whose life partner views are contrary to the traditional norm. Marriage for all adults is now the new norm.
A Bill is before Parliament already awaiting approval to pass on to the Senate so that laws can pass to legalise same sex marriage. The big question is “When will it pass both houses of parliament and become law in Australia”
The current government have promised that it will be law by the end of the year. So we will wait and see.
This means that as early as December same sex couples can tie the knot and have their relationship legally recognised in the same light as all others that are married in Australia.
It will be a matter for each of the churches to make policies as to whether they will marry same sex couples in their religions. This will be a personal or organizational decision that will need to be made by marriage celebrants across our land.
What will it mean for the legal rights and obligations of same sex couples compared with others when it comes to separation and divorce? The short answer is; probably not a lot!
At the moment same sex couples can enter into defacto relationships the same as those of the opposite sex and all of the legal rights and obligations are bestowed upon them. The only real change will probably be that a defacto relationship will not now need to be established first before children and property issues can be dealt with. The marriage will clear up any doubt of that.
At separation it is likely that the same rules will apply as with opposite sex marriages, being that you will need to wait one year after separation to get divorced but you will be able to separate property and care of children matters at the time of separation.
This is not set in stone at this stage so we will see how that pans out.
Well most people go through the Court system to nullify their marriages (get divorced) without the help of lawyers anyway. This will almost certainly remain the case. Lawyers (and sometimes the Family Courts) are only used to help when there is disagreement between parties to a relationship on how the care of children and division of property should look, so our jobs won’t change at all really.
Stay tuned for more from us in this exciting time in Australian Family Law.