Same-sex Relationships in Australia: Range of Reforms

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Words: 1186 |

Pages: 3|

6 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

Words: 1186|Pages: 3|6 min read

Published: Jan 5, 2023

The development and law reform of laws relating to Same sex relationships has been effective in reflecting socially held values and expectations. Same-sex relationships are defined as relationships between two people of the same gender and can take a multitude of forms, such as; romantic and sexual to non-romantic close relationships. The tension regarding Same sex rights came to the foreground in the 1980s as part of a broader debate about the legal recognition of Same-sex relationships. From that time, there has been strong societal development around community standards, rights of individuals and human equality in this area of law reform. However, there has been forceful opposition from religious centralists and far-right conservatives. This debate has prompted the reform of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the 1961 Marriage Act, both with the intent of balancing community standards and the rights of individuals, to ensure justice for society. The effectiveness of these reforms has been contentious due to the differing perspectives that have emerged.

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The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender identity and Intersex status) Bill Act 2013 has been effective in reflecting social values. The main aim of the act was to ensure equality and freedom for those in Same-sex relationships, on the basis of meeting fundamental human rights. However, this is not to say that the Discrimination Act has completely eradicated discrimination in its entirety in Australia. Instead, its effectiveness is based on its ability to codify and punish a set of social morals relating to Same-sex relationship discrimination. As of 2013, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) was amended to The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender identity, and Intersex Status) Bill Act 2013. The reformation of this act aimed to remove hostility for the LGBTI community in everyday life, such as, in the workplace, street harassment, and access to quality healthcare. For many, this was seen as a monumental step for same-sex relationship rights. The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catherine Branson stated that, “People of all sexual orientations and gender identities deserve to be treated with respect and equality.” Branson later discussed statistics on the matter, identifying that 42% of those in same-sex relationships experience discrimination in social events, 34% have difficulty accessing services without discrimination and 39% have suffered from some form of discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby group have been a pivotal change agent, with a central focus on ensuring anti-discrimination protection in same-sex relationships at both a state and federal level. The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights lobby group has stated that they aim to, “remove all exceptions in every publicly funded service provision at a minimum”. This demonstrates how agencies such as this lobby group have used their voices to be a spokesperson for change and seek governmental advocacy and support. This social and political lobbying has been effective in that the 1984 Act was amended to acknowledge and reflect the needs of large sections of society.

However, not all individuals agreed with reforming the 1984 act, therefore, stunting the amendment in the initial stages of implementation. Such as, Nathan Despott who publicly argued that there should be conversation therapy for those in same-sex relationships, stating that “there must be support for LGBT survivors and a public education campaign about how discrimination will strengthen people”. Statements such as Despotts’ were reinforced by the Australian Christian lobby who stated that children do best with biological parents. This further enforced discrimination of the LGBT community and highlighted the disparity between socially held views. However, there was significant community disagreement after the statements published by the Australian Christian Lobby group were to be found on “0 bases of knowledge”, which invalidated their statements. Their remarks included “same-sex couples currently face no discrimination” and “homosexuals do not suffer cultural discrimination”. Many felt these statements were extremely damaging and as a result there was even more of a social push for mechanisms such as the government to amend “outdated legislation”. This ultimately led to the 1984 amendment, thus demonstrating the development and overall effectiveness of discrimination laws in reflecting society's values and beliefs.

The legalization of Same-sex marriage and the Amendment to the 1961 Marriage Act has been effective in responding to society’s needs, reflecting current values and expectations. The need for Same-sex marriage equality was brought to the foreground in 2013 when the ACT passed the Same Sex Marriage legislation. However, it was quashed in the high court, when brought by the Abbott government, as it was found to be “unconstitutional” and in conflict with the constitution. After significant community outcry, this led to the $100 million 2017 Postal Vote Survey, conducted by the Turnbull government. The results found 61% of Australia’s population in favour of the amendment of the 1961 Marriage Act. The law came into effect on the 9thof December 2017 and allows marriage between two persons of marriageable age, regardless of their gender. The Marriage Amendment led to widespread social support with many individuals in agreeance with the decision of parliament launching the postal vote survey. Key figures, in support of the amendment, include, Bill Shorten who was the Labour opposition leader, stating that “LGBTI Australians were now equal, with laws reflecting a modern, inclusive and fair Australia”. As of December 9th, 2018 (1 year after legalisation) Australia had seen approximately 6,000 registered Same-sex marriages, with NSW seeing the most same-sex marriages, at 2,004. Statistics such as this, were commended by Australian Marriage Equality spokeswoman, Shirleene Robinson, who has stated that “Australia has embraced the change in the last year” and “At the end of the day, this was about love and equality. When all people have the opportunity to have wedding ceremonies, it’s just wonderful”.

However, many have been opposed to the reformation of such laws, stating that the 61% outcome of the postal vote, does not reflect true values and attitudes of society as the results seemed “too close” to be counted as an “accurate reflection of society”. The Australian Christian Lobby has continued to be a critical agent for vocalizing their anti-same-sex marriage views, remaining vehemently opposed, stating that “Religious freedom is under attack, threatening the way of life for millions. Additionally, far-right conservatives claimed that the Marriage Equality Act “had far-reaching consequences for gender education and would harm religious freedom and freedom of speech”. However, Agents such as the media and mechanisms such as the parliament were drastically more beneficial in achieving change. Therefore, indicating why the Same-Sex Marriage Act stands as legislation due to its reflection of society and effectiveness in directly responding to the rights of same-sex couples and their ability to marry.

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To conclude, there has been a range of reforms to legislation regarding same-sex relationships in Australia that have been effective in achieving equality. Each of these reforms has been vigorously debated due to deeply held political, religious, and social views across the spectrum. Through addressing the needs of the community, responding to community outcry and increasing the rights of all individuals, mechanisms and agencies have developed a set of law reforms that reflect with today’s expectations regarding same-sex relationships and their rights.      

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Same-Sex Relationships In Australia: Range Of Reforms. (2023, January 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Same-Sex Relationships In Australia: Range Of Reforms.” GradesFixer, 05 Jan. 2023,
Same-Sex Relationships In Australia: Range Of Reforms. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
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