Marriage Act 1961
On 9 December 2017, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 resulted in changes to the Marriage Act 1961, specifically in relation to the definition of marriage in Australia. These landmark changes reverberated around the country and, indeed, the world and provided for marriage equality in Australia with the right to marry no longer being determined by sex or gender.
Couples, free to marry, can do so as from 9 January 2018. This is because a Notice of Intended Marriage must be lodged with an authorised celebrant a minimum of one month and up to 18 months before a marriage can take place, unless the couple meet the limited requirements for a shortening of time. Note: The first same sex marriage in Australia, in fact, occurred on 16 December, 2017 following the approval, by a prescribed authority, of a shortening of time.
The documents which have been updated in the Marriage Act 1961, since the change, include:
Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) – formerly called Form 13
The NOIM has had a few changes to pages 2, 3 & 4, notably to:
- Point 1 – the description of the couple involved now reads “Groom”, “Bride” or “Partner”.
- Point 4 – the sex of the couple involved now reads “Male”, “Female” and” X” (any person who does not exclusively identify as either male or female, such as a person who is intersex, indeterminate or unspecified.)
- The “Particulars to be Completed by Authorised Celebrant” now reads “Party 1” and “Party 2”.
A NOIM lodged prior to 9 December 2017 remains valid for a period of 18 months from the date it was lodged with an authorised celebrant.
A NOIM lodged with an authorised celebrant on or after 9 December, 2017 must be completed on a new form.
Couples Certificate of Marriage – formerly Called Form 15
This certificate is the decorative certificate which the couple receive from their celebrant on their wedding day. The only change is to the signature line which now reads “Signatures of Parties to the Marriage”.
Any celebrant who has stock of the old style form is able to continue using it after 9 January 2018 provided the certificate is suitable to the particulars of the marrying couple. Celebrants need to purchase stock of the new style form from Canprint (the Government printer) for use with any same sex couples and once their current stock is depleted.
Official Certificate of Marriage – formerly called Form 16 (including the “Marriage Register” or “Red Book”)
This certificate is the one that the Celebrant must send (either via mail or online) to Births, Deaths & Marriages within 14 days of the marriage in order for the marriage to be registered. A copy of this form also appears in the “Marriage Register” or “Red Book” as it is known. These forms now reflect the changes to the law with the addition of a new item which allows parties to indicate how they want to be described.
There are three options for a party’s description: “Groom”, “Bride” and “Partner”. This item should be completed consistent with item 1 of the NOIM unless the party’s sex changed after the NOIM was given to the authorised marriage celebrant.
Note: This form appears on the reverse of the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage – formerly called Form 14. The declaration must be signed by both parties and witnessed by the Celebrant prior to the marriage occurring.
Certificate of Faithful Performance By Interpreter
This form is a Statutory Declaration used when an interpreter is required to be present at a marriage ceremony.
It includes changes to reflect “Party 1” and “Party 2” in relation to the details of the marrying couple.
Changes to Marriage Ceremony Requirements
From 9 December 2017, the Monitum will change to reflect the new definition of marriage. From that date, authorised celebrants are now required to say during each marriage ceremony:
“I am duly authorised by law to solemnise marriages according to law. Before you are joined in marriage in my presence and in the presence of these witnesses, I am to remind you of the solemn and binding nature of the relationship into which you are now about to enter. Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
Note: Ministers of religion continue to be required to use the form or ceremony of marriage recognised or provided by the minister’s religion (see subsection 45(1) of the Marriage Act).
In addition, Subsection 45(2) of the Marriage Act sets out the vows required to be said by parties to a civil marriage ceremony (where the authorised celebrant is not a minister of religion).
From 9 December 2017, the vows will change to reflect the new definition of marriage. Each party is required to say:
“I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, A.B. (or C.D.), take thee, C.D. (or A.B.), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband, or spouse).”
This change allows marrying couples to make a personal choice about the terms to be used in their marriage vows that best reflect their relationship. The term “husband” can refer to a male marriage partner, and “wife” to a female marriage partner, regardless of the sex or gender of the person saying the vows. The term “spouse” can refer to a male, female, intersex, non-binary gender or transgender person.
Changes to Advertising
From 9 December 2017, the Marriage Act provides protections for ministers of religion as well as those marriage celebrants who choose to be aligned with these protections in accordance with their religious beliefs. In these circumstances, marriage celebrants are required to advertise themselves as “Religious Marriage Celebrants”. Religious Marriage Celebrants must also be listed as such on the Register of Marriage Celebrants which is maintained by the Attorney-General’s Department. Current authorised Marriage Celebrants are able, between 10 December 2017 and 9 March 2018 only, to advise the Attorney-General that they wish to be known as a Religious Marriage Celebrant. Anyone who becomes an authorised Marriage Celebrant after 9 March 2018 will not be given the option of becoming a Religious Marriage Celebrant.
Under section 47A of the Marriage Act, a Religious Marriage Celebrant may refuse to solemnise a marriage if the celebrant’s religious beliefs do not allow the celebrant to solemnise the marriage. This includes decisions about whether to solemnise a same-sex marriage.
Advertising can occur through newspapers, magazines, the internet and social media.
Celebrants who choose not to advertise themselves as a Religious Marriage Celebrant are required to advertise themselves as a Marriage Celebrant (as opposed to something like a Civil Celebrant or Celebrant.)
This distinction allows couples the freedom to contact the Celebrant of their choice knowing, before they do, whether they are a Religious Marriage Celebrant or Marriage Celebrant (or, indeed, a Minister of Religion.)
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Further information on marriage in Australia can be sourced from The Attorney-General’s website. Here are two relevant links:
As an authorised Marriage Celebrant, I have available all the new forms required for couples to marry in Australia. If you and your partner are planning to marry and would like to know about my packages, please feel free to get in touch with details regarding your date and venue. I would love to chat with you!
046 ~ 30/12/2017
© Lindy Cooke Celebrant