Last Tuesday, Royal Assent was given to the Relationship Amendment Bill 2015 passed by Victoria’s Legislature. The bill will recognize same-sex marriages and other unions as domestic partnerships in the Australian state if one of the persons is a Victorian resident and the law is expected to go into effect on October 1st at the latest. Victoria joins New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania where foreign relationships are recognized as something other than a de facto union.
Australia has a nationwide de facto union law with some of the rights of heterosexual marriages, and while several territories have expanded the scope of rights granted to same-sex couples over the years, gay marriage itself is not performed or recognized as a marriage in the country due to a statutory law passed by the Federal Government in 2004 that amended the Marriage Act 1961 to state that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
When the Australian Capital Territory attempted to change its marriage laws in 2013 to allow gay couples to marry, the Australian High Court unanimously struck it down with a ruling arguing that Australia’s matrimonial laws are a Federal issue and must be changed through the nation’s Parliament and may not be changed on a local level.
Attempts to approve a national same-sex marriage bill in recent years have mostly been hindered by the lack of a free vote on the issue. Currently, the Australian Government is mulling a plebiscite on whether to legalize same-sex marriage while the opposition demands a Parliamentary free vote before the next elections which must be held by January 2017.
Victoria has also become the latest place to expand joint adoption rights to same-sex couples after a bill was passed last December. Although the state government received applause for expanding adoption rights, the bill was also met with some criticism from LGBT rights groups as conservatives in the state’s legislature succeeded in inserting a last-minute clause allowing religious organizations to refuse same-sex couples if it violates their beliefs. The hard choice for the ruling party was then made to pass the bill as is rather than scrap it. The new adoption law is scheduled to come into effect by September 1st.
Victoria will then join the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia in allowing full adoption rights to gay couples.
For more information on the LGBT rights situation in Australia, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Australia