One of the most homophobic countries in Europe is set to leave Australia in the dust on the path to marriage equality by providing gays and lesbians with the documentation they need to marry overseas.

Like Australia, Poland bans same-sex marriage, but this month its Minister for Equality, Elzbieta Radziszewska, announced she would seek to allow authorities to provide same-sex couples with the documentation they needed to marry abroad.

The Federal Government was advised to lift its ban on issuing documentation to same-sex couples by a Senate inquiry in 2009, but has so far failed to act.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich called the ban “mean spirited” and said marriage advocates would be fighting it in the courts.

“Despite a positive recommendation from the Senate inquiry, no action has been taken and the situation continues to grow worse as more countries have allowed same-sex couples to marry in the meantime,” Greenwich said.

He said AME would be taking the fight to the courts on the issue in 2011.

“AME is working with legal academics to see what avenues exist for overturning the Government’s policy,” Greenwich said, “We will be taking legal action on this year but it is an area which would be very easy for the Gillard Government to take action on.”

“This is something that Julia Gillard could give the GLBT community while debate is postponed to the ALP national conference. If she wants to take action she can overturn the current policy on issuing documents and follow that Senate inquiry recommendation”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told the Star Observer that it was prevented from providing documentation to same-sex couples under the Marriage Act.

“It is not DFAT policy, but Australian law, which only permits the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or an Australian Embassy overseas to issue a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage if the proposed marriage is to be recognised as valid under Australian law,” the spokesman said.

“The Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Under the Marriage Act, a same-sex union solemnised in a foreign country is not recognised as a marriage.”

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