From the team at Calley Family Lawyers, welcome to the Winter edition of Family Law Solutions. As the air gets colder, the trees shed their leaves and the nights seem longer, seasonal change is clearly afoot.
There is also significant change mooted in the family law realm. Many of our readers have no doubt heard about the issue of marriage equality. What is this about and how does it affect Australia?
As the law currently stands, it is not possible for a same sex couple to marry in Australia. Same sex partners can be legally-considered de facto partners and are able to enter civil unions however this does not automatically entitle participants to the rights conferred on married couples.
The Commonwealth legislation which prescribes the requirements of marriage in Australia, the Marriage Act 1961 is very clear in defining marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” (section 5). The definition borrows largely from the words of Lord Penzance in the case of Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee heard before the English Court of Probate and Divorce in 1866!
In recent years, legislators have also fortified the Marriage Act 1961 to prevent same sex marriages solemnised in foreign countries from being recognised in Australia.
Why is there now a push for marriage equality?
In recent years, opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Australians favour marriage amongst same sex couples. A Galaxy poll conducted in May 2011 indicted that 75 percent of Australians believe that marriage equality is inevitable.
A number of reasons have been proffered namely, the rising mainstream acceptance of same sex relationships, the declining participation rates of Christian-based faiths and an increase in the number of de facto relationships.
In 2013 the Australian Capital Territory attempted to subvert the Commonwealth Marriage Act by introducing its own Marriage Equality Act to allow for same sex marriages to take place in the ACT. The Federal Government challenged the validity of the legislation and it was torpedoed on constitutional grounds by the High Court of Australia.
Earlier this year, Ireland, a country known to be a bastion of Catholic conservatism embraced same sex marriage via a referendum put to its voters. For advocates of marriage equality this proved to be a watershed moment.
At the present time, the Australian media and legislators have placed marriage equality high on the national agenda. The Federal Opposition has recently introduced a Marriage Equality bill to spark parliamentary debate on the issue at the forthcoming Spring sittings.
Whatever your view, it seems that the issue will not die down. Discussion will focus on whether same sex marriage should be determined by elected representatives in the national parliament or whether the matter should be dealt with directly by voters via a plebiscite. Stay tuned!
Having highlighted the remarkable work of 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty in the previous edition of Family Law Solutions, it was with great excitement that our Firm Principal, Vic Rajah was afforded the opportunity to meet with Ms Batty.
Despite her personal pain, she continues to tirelessly highlight the scourge of family violence in Australia and is focussed on effecting positive change in this area.
“Meeting with Ms Batty and discussing her vision was an absolute privilege. All Australians should be inspired by this amazing individual” said Mr Rajah.
Calley Family Lawyers is committed to ensuring that our clients receive top shelf service and the support required to negotiate the often challenging nature of family law situations. Every case is different and tailored advice and strategies recognise each client’s diverse needs and expectations.
Your support and ongoing confidence in Calley Family Lawyers is greatly appreciated. We are always keen to develop and strengthen our collaborative partnerships and Vic and his team look forward to assisting your friends, family and associates with your family law needs.