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Perth couple to become the first to file for same-sex divorce in Australia

Megan Carnegie December 11, 2017
Equality ambassadors and volunteers from the Equality Campaign celebrate as they gather in front of Parliament House in Canberra on December 7, 2017, ahead of the parliamentary vote on Same Sex Marriage, which will take place later today in the House of Representatives. / AFP PHOTO / SEAN DAVEY

(AFP/Sean Davey)

Australia’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage does not mean embossed invitations and wedding bells for everyone.

The bill, which was passed in Australia’s Parliament last week , allows two people, regardless of sex, to marry.

It also permits same-sex couples to divorce, as two women from Perth were relieved to find.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: People in the crowd celebrate as the result is announced during the Official Melbourne Postal Survey Result Announcement at the State Library of Victoria on November 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians have voted for marriage laws to be changed to allow same-sex marriage, with the Yes vote defeating No. Despite the Yes victory, the outcome of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey is not binding, and the process to change current laws will move to the Australian Parliament in Canberra. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Getty)

The lesbian couple can now use the new laws to file for same-sex divorce, the first case of its kind in Australia.

In 2015, the women married at a consulate in Perth under the laws of a European country where same-sex marriage had already been legalised.

However, the marriage broke down and the two women separated.

It soon became apparent that to get a divorce in Australia was going to be far more difficult than for a heterosexual couple.

One of the women contacted solicitor Maria Loukas and barrister Teresa Farmer to find out more about the possible means of divorcing, or if the means existed at all.

“The difficulty of this particular couple was having married under legislation of a European country, they couldn’t access the divorce system in that country, because they weren’t residents in that country – neither of them were,” Farmer told ABC News.

According to solicitor Maria Loukas, her client had suffered a great deal of angst because she could not file for divorce, even though both parties no longer wanted to be married.

“For her, it’s been about not being able to move on with her life,” Loukas said.

“It’s been about not being able to tidy up the end of something to be able to start fresh somewhere else.”

“She’s been held back in many ways,” she added.

Delegates of the Greens cut a wedding cake in rainbow colors
(Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

As soon as the new marriage act was confirmed, Australian couples who wedded overseas had their unions recognised, with thousands of gay couples waking up to find they were legally married in their home country.

And in turn, this couple gained eligibility to file for divorce, allowing them to begin a new chapter of their lives.

Barrister Teresa Farmer said the pair are “now no different to any other married couple.”

“Had Australia not changed the law, I don’t know what would have happened for this couple.”

“It’s a shame it’s taken so long as it has, but it provides an equality for all married couples on all bases, so it’s important,” Farmer added.

Another disastrous side effect of marriage inequality was that those who were unable to divorce were also unable to marry again, which would be classified as bigamy.

In Australia, this offence is punishable with a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Earlier this year, the United Nations ruled that Australia was violating international human rights obligations by not allowing same-sex divorces.

Trent Zimmerman celebrates at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia after the historical same-sex marriage bill was passed.(Michael Masters/Getty Images)

According to a report compiled by ANZ Bank,before same-sex marriage became law, the Australian economy was losing $500 million to New Zealand, where couples were flocking for weddings, honeymoons and divorce lawyers.

The motion to legalise same-sex marriage was approved almost unanimously by the House of Representatives last week.

It came after almost 13 million Australians (79.5%) voted in the country’s non-binding postal ballot to endorse the law.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: People in the crowd celebrate as the result is announced during the Official Melbourne Postal Survey Result Announcement at the State Library of Victoria on November 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians have voted for marriage laws to be changed to allow same-sex marriage, with the Yes vote defeating No. Despite the Yes victory, the outcome of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey is not binding, and the process to change current laws will move to the Australian Parliament in Canberra. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Getty)

Last week’s outcome comes after years of activism and debate, and a three-month community campaign by the Equality Campaign.

The Equality Campaign said: “This Bill ensures every LGBTI Australian will now be treated equally with the same dignity and respect as their fellow Australians and will be able to marry the person they love.

“This has been a tough road for LGBTI Australians, their families and friends. However, achieving marriage equality today enables us to move forward stronger and more resilient, knowing that no Australian has to ever live through this experience again.

Australia is now the 25th country in the world to have marriage equality for same-sex couples.

More: Australia, Australia, divorce, gay divorce, Gay rights, lesbian marriage, LGBT rights, marriage equality, same sex marriage

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