Gov't Commitment to Removing Barrier to Overseas Gay Marriages Welcomed

5 Dec 2011


AUSTRALIA: Marriage equality advocates have welcomed the Federal Government's announcement that it will act on yesterday's Labor Party National Conference decision to allow Australian same-sex partners to access the official documents they need to marry overseas.

Until now the Australian Government has refused to issue same-sex partners seeking to marry in other countries with the certificate they require to show they are not already married in Australia.

The Certificates, known as Certificates of Non-Impediment to Marriage or CNIs, are issued as a matter of course to Australians intending to enter opposite-sex marriages overseas.

Australian Marriage Equality Campaign Director, Rodney Croome, said the change will make a real difference to many partners.

"Many gay and lesbians Australians travel overseas to marry because they can't marry here, but when they discover the Australian Government won't give them the required paperwork, weddings plans have to be cancelled and the partners concerned continue to experience the legal and social disadvantages of not being able to marry", Mr Croome said.

"Obviously, it would be better if Australian same-sex couples could marry in their own country rather than being forced overseas to marry."

"But for those who do marry in other countries the new policy will make a real difference."

The new CNI policy comes in the wake of the Labor Party National Conference adopting a new party policy supporting marriage equality but allowing Labor MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has campaigned for the removal of the CNI ban since for several years, lobbying consistently for its removal, securing a recommendation against the ban from a 2009 Senate inquiry, highlighting cases where the ban has impacted adversely on ordinary Australians, and threatening legal action if the ban was not removed.

AME recently helped highlight the case of Angela Borella, the sister of former Tasmanian Labor Premier, David Bartlett, who was denied a CNI to allow her to marry her Portuguese partner in Portugal where same-sex marriage is legal.

In an opinion article, Ms Borella wrote,

"My partner and I were full of excitement about the future ahead and fulfilling our plan. But my feelings immediately dissolved in to sadness, embarrassment and shame when I found I couldn't have a CNI. I had never felt more de-valued as an Australian citizen."

"The failure of the Australian Government to issue us a CNI impedes greatly on our relationship here. For example, I am unable to access certain entitlements like health care unless I am married. I'm also concerned about my partner. What about her right to enter a marriage with the woman she loves? After all, we are living in Portugal, not Australia."

A fact sheet on CNIs can be found here.