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MCV – "Relationships and the Law"

Gay marriage, same-sex entitlements, lesbian parents: Australia is in the midst of an important and sometimes confusing debate about legally recognising same-sex couples and their families.

MCV has prepared this special feature to guide you through your rights in state and federal law.

Our guide has been prepared by Australia’s most respected gay human rights advocates and academics. It also includes links to further information.

MARRIAGE

Same-sex marriage is presently recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, and, in the USA, in the states of Massachusetts and California.

However, the Australian Marriage Act was amended in 2004 to prohibit any recognition of same-sex marriage in this country.

Some constitutional experts believe the states can enact same-sex marriage laws but this has not yet happened.

If you plan to marry overseas make sure you understand local law. For example, visitors can easily marry in Canada, but it is much harder to obtain a divorce than in Australia.

You should also be aware that your marriage will not be legally recognised when you return to Australia.

Despite opposition from both major parties, support for same-sex marriage is relatively high in Australia (57% according to recent polls).

If you would like to contribute to the campaign for same-sex marriage visit Australian Marriage Equality

CIVIL UNIONS

There is no national civil union scheme in Australia although such schemes do exist at a state level.

There are civil union registries in Tasmania and the ACT. Victoria will have a registry by the end of this year.

These registries provide couples with a way to immediately access all available relationship entitlements in state law, and soon federal law; and to prove their relationship entitlements if challenged in situations like medical emergency.

Registries also provide personal relationships with the official, symbolic recognition of government, and through it, society.

Australia’s registries recognise same and opposite-sex couples, as well as companionate partners in Tasmania and Victoria.

Couples should contact their local Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to find out how to have their civil union registered.

Couples can also enter a municipal civil union in Sydney and Melbourne, or a British civil union at a British Consulate. These unions can provide evidence of the existence of a relationship in some circumstances, but they confer no legal rights in Australian law and are largely symbolic.

ACT – City of Sydney – Tasmania – Relationships Tasmania – City of Melbourne – City of Yarra

DE FACTO COUPLES

Australian federal law gives married and opposite-sex de facto couples the same legal rights and responsibilities.

The Federal Government is currently extending the definition of de facto partner to include same-sex partners across all federal laws, beginning with superannuation in mid-2008 and ending with social security in mid-2009.

Other areas where relationship entitlements will be extended include taxation, immigration and workplace entitlements.

All Australian states and territories give opposite-sex de facto couples the same legal rights and responsibilities as married couples. They also give same-sex de facto couples the same entitlements in areas like wills and intestacy, property division and state taxes and pensions.

Parenting rights are not yet extended to same-sex partners in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

Definitions of what constitutes a de facto relationship differ between the states. With the exception of Tasmania there is usually a requirement that de facto partners live together for a certain period before qualifying for relationship entitlements.

Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission

YOU AND YOUR CHILD

Laws dealing with family and children are split between state and federal governments.

Some states, including WA, Tasmania and the ACT, allow co-parents in same-sex relationships to adopt their partner’s children. WA and the ACT allow same-sex partners to adopt children relinquished by other people.

Most states allow women in same-sex relationships to access IVF and other fertility services. The exception is Victoria where reform is expected soon. Some states including WA, the ACT and the NT allow co-mothers to be deemed legal parents of children born through fertility treatment. Reform is expected soon in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

The Family Court allows child custody disputes to be resolved if the parents are in a same-sex relationship. Disputes over child support and property division are still resolved in state Supreme Courts, but reform is also imminent.

Only the ACT recognises surrogacy arrangements between surrogate mothers and same-sex couples. Surrogacy is available in other countries such as the US, but these arrangements are not automatically recognised in Australia.

None of the other countries with which Australia has adoption protocols allows same-sex partners to adopt their children.

Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby

Myths and facts about civil unions

Myth: The registries we have in Australia are second-rate civil union schemes.
Fact: Australia’s state registries grant a wider range of rights to a wider range of couples, and with greater ceremonial recognition than most overseas civil union schemes including in the UK and Europe.

Myth: Registering a relationship is like registering a dog.
Fact: A relationship is registered in the same way as a birth, death or marriage: on a register, in a registry, by a Registrar.

Myth: A state relationship certificate has less legal standing than a marriage certificate.
Fact: A certificate guarantees immediate and incontestable access to all relationship rights, just like a marriage certificate.

Myth: A registry is a poor substitute for marriage.
Fact: Registries were never intended as a substitute for marriage for same-sex couples, but to sit alongside marriage as a way to recognise a wider range of partners who can’t or don’t wish to marry.

Myth: Existing registries don’t allow couples to have ceremonies.
Fact: Registries are designed to allow couples to have their relationships recognised in the manner of their choosing, either with a formal ceremony or without.

[Link: Original Article]

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Categories: Children, gay, Lesbian, marriage

Family Matters – "School experiences of the children of lesbian and gay parents" by Ray, V; Gregory, R

August 1, 2001 1 comment

Research suggests that the children of gay and lesbian parents have similar psychological adjustments to those children growing up in more traditional family structures. Nevertheless, these children may face some particular challenges. In this article the authors explore the school experiences of a small sample of children of gay and lesbian parents. They identify some common difficulties that these children confront, and suggest some possible approaches to overcoming them.

[Link: Original Article]
[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Children, gay, Lesbian, School

Family Court of Australia, Papers and Reports – "Same sex couples and family law" by Jenni Millbank

October 1, 1998 Leave a comment

Sydney, NSW: Family Court of Australia, Papers and Reports – Paper presented at Third Family Court of Australia National Conference , Melbourne, October 1998, 23p, Online only

Lesbian and gay families have considerably less access to justice than their heterosexual counterparts, both in terms of the limited number of avenues open to them to resolve family disputes, and in terms of the comparatively high cost and complexity of the existing avenues, argues the author. She states that, while in the area of disputes over the residence and care of children, the Family Law Act and the Family Court are among the most progressive and inclusive family law regimes in the world in terms of their approach to same sex families, actions and decisions have not, however, been all plain sailing. An examination of the court’s practice shows, at best a rebuttable presumption of risk, and at worst an unshakeable presumption of harm to children from a lesbian or gay parent, argues the author. The author summarises what the social science research indicates about lesbian and gay parenting, and states that the very conclusive findings run directly contrary to many of the assumptions utilised in the legal system regarding lesbian and gay parents, and that it is thus arguable that if the sociological data had been utilised in the cases she has discussed, some different decisions might have been reached.

[Link: Original Article]
[Link: Original Article]