Australia lifts ban on certificates for gay couples marrying abroad

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The Australian government has lifted a ban which hindered the ability of gay couples to marry overseas.

Many countries require Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage before they allow a couple to wed, but for gay Australians, these have been impossible to acquire from their home government.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced the change of policy at the ruling Labor party’s National Conference.

In 2009, a Senate inquiry recommended the ban be overturned, but Ms Gillard said at the time: “Given that under Australian law through the Marriage Act a marriage is between a man and a woman it would not be proper to issue a certificate of no impediment because in truth we do not have the mechanism under current law to recognise a same-sex marriage overseas.

“With the Certificates of No Impediment to wed, it would only be proper to issue those if Australian law changed.”

An overseas same-sex wedding will not be recognised as forming a marriage when the couple returns to Australia, but it will be used as evidence of a relationship for regional laws.

Australian Marriage Equality Campaign Director, Rodney Croome, welcomed the announcement, saying: “Many gay and lesbians Australians travel overseas to marry because they can’t marry here, but when they discover the Australian Government won’t give them the required paperwork, weddings plans have to be cancelled and the partners concerned continue to experience the legal and social disadvantages of not being able to marry.”

The announcement follows the case of the sister of the state of Tasmania’s former Premier David Bartlett. On being denied a Certificate to marry her partner she said she “had never felt more de-valued as an Australian citizen”.

At the weekend, Australia’s ruling Labor party voted to change its party platform to support the introduction of gay marriage, although Ms Gillard is opposed to changing the law.