Same sex marriage is now legal in British Consulates in Australia

Date: Jun 30, 2014

A same-sex marriage ceremony has been held in Sydney, however it was on British soil.

As of Friday 27 June 2014 it is now possible for same-sex couples to marry in UK British Consulates, if at least one of the couple holds British citizenship.

Australian Marriage Equality National Director Rodney Crome welcomed the step forward.

"Those Australian same-sex couples where one partner is British will now be able to marry in Australia with their family and friends, and not in another country," Mr Crome explained in a press release.

"Same-sex marriages in British consulates will renew the marriage equality debate by highlighting just how far Australia has fallen behind other countries including our closest friends and allies."

Same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales in March 2014. The Consular Marriage and Marriages Under Foreign Law Order 2014 came into effect on June 3 2014, which allows same-sex marriages to occur in British Consulates in 24 countries, including Australia. Every country on the list does not currently permit same-sex marriage under domestic legislation and had to give permission to the consulates for the marriages to occur.

The Attorney-General Senator George Brandis said in correspondence with Australian Marriage Equality that the marriages will not be recognised in Australia.

"The Australian Government has informed the British High Commission that it has no objections to officers from the British High Commission solemnising consular same-sex marriages on consular grounds pursuant to British laws, if at least one person of the marrying couple is a British national," Mr Brandis said.

"We have advised the British High Commission that such unions will not be recognised as marriages in Australia pursuant to the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth). The matter of converting British civil partnerships to same-sex marriages under British law is a matter for British authorities."

Same-sex relationships in NSW

A report on same-sex marriage law in NSW was tabled in July last year. The report found that even though same-sex marriage could be recognised in New South Wales legislation, the law could still be challenged in the High Court. To offer certainty to couples who wish to wed, reform would best be achieved through change at federal level.

In December 2013, this decision was reinforced when the High Court ruled the Australian Capital Territory's Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 was of no effect as it could not function simultaneously with the Federal Marriage Act 1961, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

Talk to a family lawyer if you are interested in family law advice regarding your rights as a same-sex couple in Australia.