Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has announced that Australians seeking to enter into same-sex marriages overseas will be eligible for Certificates of No Impediment (CNIs) to marriage from February 1. This is in line with a commitment made by the ALP National Conference in December.

“This important change will allow same-sex couples to take part in overseas marriage ceremonies, and be considered married according to the laws of that country,” Roxon said.

Some countries require foreign nationals to present a CNI before they are able to legally marry in that country to confirm there is no impediment to a person taking part in a marriage ceremony overseas.

“This change means the certificates, which were previously only available to heterosexual couples, will now also be available to same-sex couples,” Roxon said.

“Yet again, this change demonstrates Labor’s strong commitment to removing discrimination in Commonwealth laws and policies.”

In 2009 a Senate inquiry recommended that the federal Government issue CNIs to same-sex couples. The refusal to issue them to same-sex couples had been federal Government policy since 2004 under the Howard Government.

The Gillard Government’s move was welcomed by Australian Marriage Equality (AME) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which had provided legal advice for the campaign on the issue.

“Some same-sex couples have been unable to access entitlements offered by foreign governments in areas like health care and immigration because the Australian Government … obstructed them from getting married overseas,” PIAC chief executive Edward Santow said.

“By refusing to issue CNIs to same-sex couples … Australia was forcing its own discriminatory approach onto other countries. The Attorney-General’s decision is a step in the right direction.”

AME national convenor Alex Greenwich welcomed the change and thanked all those who had helped bring it about.

“It’s already painful enough for same-sex partners to have to marry overseas, away from family and friends, without the Australian Government putting up additional bureaucratic barriers,” he said.

“This policy change is also a tribute to the advocacy and skill of Rainbow Labor and its pro-equality campaign in the lead-up to the Labor National Conference.

“I’d like to thank the Public Interest Advocacy Centre for providing us with compelling legal advice about why the policy was wrong.

“But most of all I tip my hat to the couples who were brave enough to go public about being denied CNIs and highlight why this cruel and petty policy had to change.”

Same-sex marriages conducted overseas are not recognised as marriages in Australia but may be accepted as evidence for a de facto relationship under Australian law.

INFO: Couples can find information about applying for CNIs at www.smartraveller.gov.au

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