Perth couple to become the first to file for same-sex divorce in Australia
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.
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.
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.
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.
It came after almost 13 million Australians (79.5%) voted in the country’s non-binding postal ballot to endorse the law.
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.