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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM), a.k.a. gay marriage, and civil unions

Introduction to same-sex/gay marriage
and civil unions in Australia, with a brief
mention of surrounding islands in Oceania:

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Throughout this web site, "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage, and "LGBT"
refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual community.

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LGBT symbol 2013-DEC: Current status of same-sex relationships in Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of Oceania:

Countries in the Pacific Ocean include some relatively large land masses -- like Australia, the Hawaii Islands (U.S.), New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, and Solomon Islands -- as well as many smaller islands and collections of tiny islands such as the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, etc.

Like other areas of the world, the laws regarding same-gender sexual activity and same-sex marriage differ greatly among political jurisdictions:

How different political jurisdictions in
Oceania recognize same-sex relationships:

same-sex relationships in Oceania1,2


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wedding ringsIn Oceania, other than Australia:

  • Same-sex marriage became legal in:

    • 2013-APR-17, in New Zealand due to a law passed in their Parliament, which came into effect on 2013-AUG-19.

    • 2013-MAY-18, in French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis & Futuna, due to their political connection with France. The law became effective on MAY-29.

  • Elsewhere in various areas:
    • Same-sex couples are recognized by the government only as roommates, or

    • All same-gender sexual behavior is illegal and can be prosecuted. It can bring a 14 year jail sentence in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, or

    • Male-male sexual behavior is illegal and can bring up to 14 years in Jail, sometimes with corporal punishment. Meanwhile, female-female sexual behavior is legal. 1

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Current status of marriage equality in Australia:

Australia is variously considered a country, island and/or continent. It has three territories: Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, & Norfolk Island.

Cohabitation of the relationships of same-sex couples has been recognized throughout Australia since 2009, without any form of registration.

Same-sex couples have been able to register their relationship as civil unions in the eastern parts of Australia, where the bulk of the Australian population resides. This includes the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria. However, these civil unions are not necessarily recognized elsewhere in the country.

Same-sex couples are prohibited from marrying by the federal Marriage Act (1961), as amended in 2004 by the federal government. The law limits marriages to:

"the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life." 3

Since 2004, there have been sixteen attempts to bring marriage equality, either to a single state or to the entire country. All have failed to pass and become law, or have been overturned by the courts.

As of the end of 2015, Australia and Northern Ireland remain the only two major countries in the world that are predominately major English speaking and that have not yet attained marriage equality. Major efforts in both countries are underway to legalize gay marriage. Strong majorities of the population in both countries currently support equality.

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Promises by Australian political parties:

  • If the federal Coalition Government wins the next election in 2016, they have promised to hold a national plebiscite on marriage equality.

  • Bill Shorten, the current leader of the federal Labor party, which is currently in opposition, has promised to introduce a marriage equality bill if his party wins the election.

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Non-profit groups promoting marriage equality:

  • Australian Marriage Equality is the main group promoting the legalizing of same-sex marriage (a.k.a. gay marriage) throughout Australia. It was founded in 2004 by Luke Gahan and Geraldine Donoghue. 4

  • Equal Love is another nationwide campaign for marriage equality in Australia. Their web site states:

    "... Equal love formed in 2004 when the Howard government changed the marriage act to purposefully discriminate against non heterosexual couples. It has now been over 10 years since the Australian government amended the Marriage Act to to state that marriage in an institution between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. That's over ten years of state-sanctioned discrimination!" 5

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Religious opposition to same-sex marriage:

Similar to other countries, spokespersons for the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, conservative Protestant churches, and Islam have indicated their faith group's opposition to marriage equality.

In a remarkable speech in Sydney, Islamic preacher -- Brother Wael Ibrahim -- suggested that same-sex marriage reforms could lead towards legalizing incest in the country.

According to the Daily Telegraph, he compared:

"... same-sex marriage with an Indian woman who married a stray dog and a Mexican mayor who married an alligator. He also referred to a man who protested his 'right' to marry his laptop filled with pornography.

'Human beings have got endless demands that, if not controlled, the entire universe will be corrupted and ruined,' Mr Ibrahim said." 6

Of course, the marriages referred to were not legal; neither was recognized by their governments for at least two reasons:

  • Both parties to a marriage must be human, and

  • Both parties must be able to give informed consent.

Liberal faith groups, secularists, Agnostics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, NOTAS (persons NOT Affiliated with a religious group) and the general population of Australia strongly favor marriage equality.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "LGBT rights in Oceania," Wikipedia, as on 2013-APR-20, at:
  2. The large graphic is copied from Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License. You are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. See: Official license. Image updated from Wikipedia periodically.
  3. "Marriage Act 1961 - Section 5," Commonwealth Consolidation Acts, at:
  4. "Australian Marriage Equality," Wikipedia, as on 2015-OCT-15, at:
  5. "About Equal Love," Equal Love, 2011-OCT at:
  6. Geoff Chambers, "Islamic preacher Wael Ibrahim has compared same-sex ­marriage with marrying a ­reptile or a stray dog," The Daily Telegraph, 2015-JUL-13, at:

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > SSM menu > Australia > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage> SSM menu> Australia > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-MAY
Latest update: 2015-DEC-18
Partly written by: B.A. Robinson

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