Norfolk Island may be first territory to allow same-sex marriage

Date: Sep 30, 2014

The push for same-sex marriage has been growing across Australia, with Norfolk Island the latest jurisdiction attempting to legalise these unions.

The Norfolk Island Legislature has tabled a bill to introduce same-sex marriage to the island earlier this month. The bill will be debated early in October by the island's assembly, following consultation with locals and legal input into the final piece of potential legislation.

The new legislation would establish a parallel legal process to allow for same-sex marriage, without interfering with the Federal Marriage Act.

By not interfering with the federal legislation, the proposed changes hope to avoid the legal challenge that followed the short-lived legalisation of same-sex marriage in Canberra. In 2013, the High Court ruled that Canberra's law was not valid, as it interfered with the Federal Marriage Act.

The Norfolk Island legislation has been specifically designed to avoid the same pitfalls that the ACT legislation incurred, with input from some of the country's top constitutional experts. By steering clear of the Marriage Act, supporters expect it to not encounter the same legal objections.

While same-sex couples have previously been able to get married in British Embassies in Australia, it is currently illegal within Australia itself. If the Norfolk Island legislation passes the local assembly, and survives any challenge in the High Court, it will become the first Australian territory to permanently offer these unions.

This development comes on top of a recent survey, which found that 72 per cent of Australians are in favour of same-sex marriage, while nearly half (48 per cent) strongly support the idea.

Making same-sex marriage legal is also expected to bring an economic boost to the 2,000 resident-strong island, according to the former Norfolk Island Chief Minister Andre Nobbs.

"Over the previous 12 months 240 Australian same-sex couples have married in New Zealand, and if the same number marry on Norfolk the wedding spend alone will be $12 million," said Mr Nobbs. 

"On top of this will be expenditure by guests, and the invaluable global exposure the Island will get for doing the right thing."

If you would like to know more about your rights as a same-sex couple in New South Wales, make sure you talk to a family lawyer. They will be able to advise on the position of your relationship, especially if you are considering entering into a marriage in future years.