A family lawyer has offered his services free of charge to help a straight couple who said they would divorce if Australia got marriage equality.
Nick and Sarah Jensen of Canberra drew attention when they publicly vowed two years ago that they would end their own 10-year marriage if same-sex marriage became legal.
“We just need to see the legislation and if it all goes that way,” said Nick Jensen.
The couple have said they intend to still “live together and call each other husband and wife in the eyes of God” if they divorce.
They may run into administrative trouble if they decide to follow through with their threat, because under Australian law a couple must be separated for 12 months before divorcing.
Lawyer and marriage equality supporter Michael Tiyce has offered his services to the Jensens, saying he would help “because, quite simply, they are going to need it”.
“My firm does quite a bit of pro bono work in family law each year in the gay, lesbian and trans community,” said Tiyce.
“I thought offering assistance to Nick and Sarah would be an excellent way of reaching out across communities with my family law expertise, because, quite simply, they are going to need it.”
Tiyce said the couple will need to prove that their relationship had “broken down irretrievably” as well as living separately, which will be “a bit tricky” given their intention to stay together and have more children.
“Continuing to present as husband and wife to the world would, in my opinion, make it impossible for them to establish that their relationship was at an end,” he said.
“This is a situation known as ‘wedlock’ which is mostly experienced currently by gay couples who married overseas but cannot always divorce upon separation in Australia because their marriage post-2004 is not recognised here.”
In an article for the Bible Society, Nick Jensen said he does not regret his vow to divorce, and denied that it constituted a “petty tantrum”.
A marriage equality bill is currently before parliament, and is expected to be passed before the end of the year.