Same Sex Relationships

NSW Amends Recognition of Same-sex and Gender-Diverse Relationships Bill: Couples married overseas can now register their marital status

From November 12, 2014 NSW same-sex couples married overseas can have their marital status recognised by the NSW Relationships Register.

The move comes after long-time marriage equality advocate and Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, won government backing for his Relationships Register Amendment (Recognition of Same-sex and Gender-Diverse Relationships) Bill 2014. The amendment means same-sex couples who have married overseas are able to document their marital status on relevant forms. It also means same-sex couples who have travelled overseas to get married no longer have to declare that they are not married on official NSW paperwork.

The change acknowledges the growing number of NSW citizens heading overseas to get married to their partner, rather than waiting for the Federal Government to pass long-awaited legislation for marriage equality.

Married couples can now head to the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages website to register their relationship.

“The inaction of federal governments, past and present, on marriage equality remains an embarrassing blight on our nation’s reputation for fairness, freedom and equality,” said Mr. Greenwich.

If you want more information on how state and federal laws affect the recognition of your marriage please feel free to contact our family-law solicitors.

A Quick Overview of Australia’s Same-Sex Law Reforms

While same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised by Australia’s federal government, same-sex couples do receive otherwise equal treatment as married and de facto heterosexual couples when it comes to the law.

This has been the case since the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report Same-Sex: Same Entitlements 2008 and the subsequent amendments to 85 Commonwealth laws found to be discriminating against same-sex couples and their children.

Under the Same-Sex Relationships Bill 2008, the word “spouse” includes:

  • A same-sex partner that one is in a relationship with that is registered under a certain state or territory law
  • A same-sex partner who, although not legally married, lives in a genuine domestic basis in a relationship (a de-facto couple).

The reforms had significant impacts on:

Tax: Same-sex couples receive access to the same tax concessions as opposite-sex couples who are registered as married or de facto.

Superannuation: Private sector superannuation trustees who are in a same-sex spousal relationship can make their partner and their children the eligible recipient of reversionary benefits (your pension paid out to your partner or children in the form of an income stream following your death).

Defined Benefits Superannuation: Death benefits can be granted to the spouse and children of those in same-sex relationships.

Social Security and Family Assistance: The Department of Human Services no longer recognizes those in same-sex spousal relationships or de factor relationships as ‘single. Instead, all same-sex spouses and their children are recognised as a family and entitled to the same social security benefits and rate of payment as an opposite-sex couple.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net and the Medicare safety Net: Changes to social security benefits are reflected in the PBS and Medicare Safety Net; same-sex couples and their children are now fully recognised as a family unit.

Aged Care: A person who has a same-sex partner was previously treated as a single person under the aged care income and assets tests. Their partner’s income and assets were disregarded. As of 2009 same-sex couples are treated as a family and a partner’s assets and incomes, and any children registered to the couple, will be considered in the aged care income test.

Child Support: Changes to the parentage laws mean that same-sex couples who separate can apply for child support and access to the child.

Definition of ‘Child’: The proper recognition of same-sex families involved a broadening of the definitions of ‘child’ and ‘dependent child.’ The amendments ensure the the legal status of child-parent relationships in same-sex families are in alignment with those of opposite-sex married or de facto families, both coupled and separated. This includes children born to one parent from a previous relationship, children conceived by IVF to same-sex couples and adopted children.

Applications for child support payments can be made even if the child was born and the couple was separated prior to 1 July 2009.

Immigration: Same-sex partners of Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and some eligible New Zealand citizens can apply for the same partner visa as opposite-sex couples.

Veterans’ Affairs: The same benefits available to opposite-sex partners of veterans are now available to same-sex partners. This includes: the ability to acquire homes, pensions, death benefits and widow/widower benefits.

Citizenship: Reforms allow for the recognition of children of same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples where artificial conception procedures have been used, or where approved surrogacy arrangements have been arranged.

Do you have more questions about same-sex relationships and the law? Email or call to speak to one of our family law solicitors.

The following links may be useful for those seeking more information on the law and same-sex marriage:

Same Sex Reforms: Overview of the Australian Government’s Same-Sex law Reform

http://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/HumanRights/Pages/Samesexreforms.aspx#superannuation

Property and Financial Matters Upon the Breakdown of De Facto Relationships, 2014

https://www3.aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/introduction-22

Same-Sex Marriages Protected in NSW Law, 2014

http://www.alexgreenwich.com/same_sex_marriages_protected_in_nsw_law

Superannuation and Same-Sex Couples

http://www.taxpayer.com.au/KnowledgeBase/10267/Individuals-Tax-Super/Superannuation_and_same-sex_couples