Stop confusing the human right to civil marriage with religious marriage

October 24, 2017

As the voting period on Marriage Equality comes to an end, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) are seeking to remind the Australian community of the human rights reasons to vote ‘yes’ before the cut off time of 6pm on 7 November 2017.

ALHR LGBTI subcommittee co-chair, Nicholas Stewart said, “At present LGBTI couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples in Australia, even where their relationship is registered. In Australia and internationally, specific legal rights flow from the status of ‘being married’.  But those same legal rights are not created by relationship registration.”

“International human rights law recognises that same-sex couples are just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into stable, committed relationships, and need the same legal recognition and protection of their relationship” adds Kathryn Cramp Co-Chair of ALHR’s LGBTI Subcommittee. “The restrictions on LGBTI couples marrying which were only introduced here in 2004 need to be removed in order to protect and respect those couples’ right to equality before the law and to live a life free from discrimination as members of our Australian ‘family’.”

“Marriage does not have to be religious in nature” points out Mr Stewart. “The problem is that Australian legislation has confused a legal relationship (civil marriage) with a religious one (marriage in accordance with one’s particular religion).   Each year thousands of Australian couples legally marry in ceremonies that contain no religious references, conducted by civil celebrants. In many European and Latin American countries, one can be married either by a civil ceremony – open to LGBTI couples – or by a religious ceremony, where any restrictions will depend on the particular religion.  There is absolutely no reason why the existence of civil marriage should restrict religious marriage, and vice versa. Similarly, divorce is a civil right, but not a right recognised by all religions.  Do we say that no-one can divorce in Australia because some religions don’t approve of divorce?  Of course not.  In the same way, we have to stop confusing civil marriage with religious marriage”.

“In Australia, under the Marriage Act no religious Minister can be compelled to solemnise a marriage that is not in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion” notes Ms Cramp. “Allowing civil marriages which are open to LGBTI couples will not change that situation.  The two issues are entirely separate.”

For more information, view the ALHR Position Statement on Marriage Equality at:

Media Contact: Matt Mitchell   M:             0431 980 365              E: