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Australia Legalizes Same-sex Marriage
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of December 15, 2017) On December 7, 2017, which is just under one month after the end of the postal referendum on same-sex marriage in Australia, both chambers of parliament voted in favor of the bill – with a large majority and without any amendments. This way, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is able to keep his promise to still legalize same-sex marriage in Australia before Christmas this year, and the first same-sex couples can marry on Australian soil in 2018.
What happened in parliament…
The initially planned legislation process was accelerated, and the parliamentary recess period was put off by a week to push the law through in record time.
On November 15, 2017, Dean Smith had introduced the bill that was agreed on after the last reading on Thursday, December 7, 2017.
Several amendment requests that would have undermined the actual intention of the bill were rejected with large majority.
Aside from a few dissenting votes and about 15 abstentions, a total of 130 out of 150 deputies voted in favor of the new legislation.
This positive voting result was greeted with much joy and many rainbow flags. People were smiling, laughing and hugging each other – and then began singing I Am, You Are, We Are Australian spontaneously.
So when will there be the first gay weddings in Australia?
No later than in the morning of December 8, 2017, General Governor Peter Cosgrove, representing the British crown in Australia, signed the bill into law.
This means that since December 9, same-sex couples in Australia have been allowed to apply for a marriage license. As banns usually take one month in Australia, this means that the first same-sex weddings may happen on January 9, 2018. However, marriages legally contracted abroad will automatically be recognized in Australia from now on. In addition, there may be exceptions in particular cases.
Urgency requests for two lesbian weddings, including one for humanitarian reasons
As an exception, Cas Willow and Heather Richards have been allowed to wed on Monday, December 18, 2017 already. The wedding celebration will happen in the palliative care unit of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. Willow, aged 53, is suffering from final-stage cancer there, and the attending physicians expect her to only have a few weeks to live anymore. Willow herself doubts she will live to see Christmas this year.
Cas Willow (sitting) and Heather Richards (behind) with a friend at the palliative care unit. [From Heather’s Facebook page]
Willow’s partner Heather Richards, aged 56, was able to obtain an exceptional wedding permit for the couple. The two women have been together for 17 years and got engaged directly after the vote in Parliament on December 7. They will now become the first lesbian couple to wed on Australian soil.
Cas and Heather have asked their guests, friends and fellow LGBT members to forego gifts in favor of donations for the hospital, which will pay for the complete wedding arrangements and will also be Willow’s last residence.
Regardless of the foreseeably short duration of their marriage, the entire MensGo team sends our best wishes to these two women.
A wedding, a funeral and many donations, hopefully.
The second lesbian wedding before the official date of January 9, 2018 will happen in Melbourne, too. Megan Stapleton and Stephanie Dybal will be allowed to wed on December 19, 2017 in the city hall.
The two women had picked that date a long time before the postal referendum on same-sex marriage in Australia and the new law for an unofficial and not legally binding exchange of vows, and they were surprised by the current events. Invitations had already been sent out and many guests from around the world had already booked their flight tickets – and now they will be able to attend a quite official and legally binding, real wedding ceremony.
Are there any exceptional ways out for homophobes?
The new law does not stipulate any exceptions for administrative clerks, merchants or service providers, which means that marriage registrars, bakes or print shops may not revert to religious or other personal reasons to refuse rendering their services for same-sex couples.
Obviously, no priests, pastors or ministers have to offer religious weddings for same-sex couples.
As early as during the parliamentary debate, MP Tim Wilson proposed to his long-time companion Pyan Bolger – and Ryan said YES in front of the running camera.
Christine Abbott, sister of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and a well-known LGBT activist, will now be able to marry her girlfriend. Tony Abbott had been against same-sex marriage for the longest time and only abstained from voting during the recent process in order to now position himself less against the new law – and because he knew it would be accepted anyway, of course. What a flip-flopper who now claims he is happy for his sister!
The first gay divorce to come very soon
We are likely to see the first same-sex divorce even before the first regular same-sex weddings in Australia. In fact, a lesbian couple was not allowed to divorce as long as same-sex marriage in Australia had not been legalized.
Shortly after legalization of gay marriages in Australia on Saturday, December 9, a lawyer handed in the paperwork for a divorce application of his clients on Sunday, December 10, 2017, which was officially registered on Monday, December 11, 2017.
The two women whose identities were not disclosed had met in 2015. They fell in love and wanted to get married. They did that in the embassy of some European country (which we do not know either) in Australia based on the fact that an embassy is part of the jurisdiction of the delegating country.
The two women separated a year later but there was no judicial option for a divorce in Australia, and divorcing was not allowed in that embassy either because neither of them permanently lived in that country.
Legalization of gay marriage provided a way out of this bizarre situation: The two women’s marriage was recognized and validated automatically and immediately in Australia, which has made their divorce possible in a legal manner.
As it seems, this is not a unique case. Two other women how had gotten married in Canada in 2004, were not allowed to divorce in Australia. The UN had asked Australia in August 2017 to clear up this strange situation because it was an infringement of the women’s personal rights. As gay marriage is legal in Australia now, such bizarre cases should be a thing of the past.
At the end of this long article, here is a video showing the history of same-sex marriage legalization in impressive images and with beautiful music.
Update of December 19, 2017. Cas Willow and Heather Richards got married in the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne yesterday (Monday, December 19). The wedding was celebrated in the presence of official visitors of the State of Victoria, namely Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and two other ministers.
Cas Willow and Heather Richards at their wedding. We wish them all the best.
The two women asked to forego wedding gifts in favor of a a donation to the hospital treating Cas Willow. In the name of the State of Victoria, the Prime Minister donated 50,000 Australian Dollars (AUD), which is about 32,500 EUR.
Contrary to what we said above, the first same-sex wedding in Australia was not the one of Cas Willow and Heather Richards. Several other couples were allowed to marry as early as Saturday, December 16, 2017 as a result of special permits.
The first same-sex couple in Australia got married in Sydney: Lauren Price, aged 31, from Wales and Amy Laker, aged 29, from Australia. The two women had initially planned an engagement party and invited the whole family including Lauren's family in Wales whose flight tickets she had already bought. The were granted the special permit to convert the already planned engagement party into a real wedding party and to avoid punishing the foreign family members who were travelling from far away.
Everyone here at MensGo congratulates all Australians who may now get married like everyone else, and we specially think of Cas Willow and Heather Richards hoping they may benefit from their marriage as long as possible under these circumstances.
Update of December 31, 2017: Cas Willow deceased on December 29, 2017 at 5:22 p.m. (local time). We direct our sincere condolences to her widow Heather Richards. The story of these two women has moved us very deeply.
On December 19, 2017 the first lesbian wedding was celebrated in the state of Western Australia: Lyn Hawkins and Anne Sedgwick were married there – once again in an urgent move and with a special permit for medical reasons. Today, Lyn Hawkins died of ovarian cancer, and we offer our deepest sympathy to her widow.