End legal limbo for same-sex couples

Australia’s current laws on marriage leave same-sex couples in a maze of legal uncertainty when it comes to recognition of foreign marriages, and are inconsistent with international law.

Human rights and legal organisations have expressed their strong support for the Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014 to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, Anna Brown, said the Bill was a step towards removing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and resolving a number of legal difficulties.

“This Bill is a step towards marriage equality and would actually help resolve some unexpectedly cruel consequences of the current law, which in some circumstances can actually leave individuals unable to divorce an overseas spouse,” said Ms Brown.

The Inner City Legal Centre is a specialist legal service for LGBTIQ people in NSW and Director Dan Stubbs has assisted clients who have found themselves in some complicated legal situations concerning their relationships.

“Not recognising foreign marriages leaves many people in Australia in a bit of a legal limbo whereby their marriage is legal in another country and not here. It can also create a number of complications, for example, someone who married their same-sex partner overseas can’t currently legally divorce in Australia,” said Mr Stubbs.

By failing to recognise overseas marriages, Australia is also offending international law.

“Not only do we fall short of international human rights standards but Australia’s obligations under private international law would dictate that Australia should recognise overseas marriages, regardless of the sex or gender of the couples,” said Ms Brown.

“It’s one thing for Australia not to provide for marriage equality here, but denying same-sex marriage solemnised elsewhere is completely disrespectful of people who have taken steps to exercise their right to marry,” said Mr Stubbs.

The joint submission from the Human Rights Law Centre and the National Association of Community Legal Centres, with support from the Inner City Legal Centre, is available here.


For further comment or queries contact:
Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre (0422 235 522 or anna.brown@hrlc.org.au)
Dan Stubbs, Director, Inner City Legal Centre (0437 253 543 or dan@iclc.org.au)