Thursday 15 November 2018 marks 365 days since Australia voted yes to same-sex marriage. At Nicholes Family Lawyers we think this is an anniversary worth celebrating.
The postal survey resulted in 61.6% of Australia voting in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry. It was December 8 2017 when Parliament finally passed legislation legalising same-sex marriage. Since the legalisation more than 5356 same-sex couples have wed across Australia. In Victoria, 1331 same-sex weddings have taken place, in addition to this there has been 12 weddings involving a gender non-binary person. These are all statistics worth celebrating. However, it wasn’t a smooth path that led to marriage equality and it must be remembered that the postal vote was not the beginning of this journey.
In 2004 an Australian couple went to Canada to be married and on their return they applied to the Family Court of Australia for a declaration that their marriage was legally recognised in Australia. At the same time the Howard government expressly prohibited same-sex marriage. Following on from this over the next 13 years there would be 22 unsuccessful attempts in Federal Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.
In 2013 there was hope as the Australian Capital Territory passed law that legalised same sex marriage. However the High Court struck down the law on the basis that it was inconsistent with federal legislation. In 2015 Ireland held a referendum resulting in the legalisation of same-sex marriage, this again sparked hope in the Australian LGBTI community that our country would follow suit.
It was not until September 2016 that former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the Plebiscite Bill into parliament. The bill passed through the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Senate. In August 2017 new legislation relating to the Plebiscite was again passed through the House of Representatives. Turnbull’s government openly committed to ordering a postal vote in the event that the legislation did not pass through the senate. The Senate again defeated the bill. It was announced a postal vote would occur and advocates for marriage equality committed to challenging the legality of the postal survey in the High Court. The High Court ultimately found the vote was legal and within the power of the government.
The postal vote then took place from 12 September 2017 to 7 November 2017. The journey to same-sex marriage has been long and tumultuous. The anxiety the LGBTI community was put through in enduring a nationwide vote that determined their basic rights to freedom should not be forgotten. On the 15th of November, celebrate that we as a nation voted Yes, but also take the time to remember the hardship that was endured to get here.