LGBT rights in the Northern Territory

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LGBT rights in the Northern Territory
Northern Territory (Australia)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1983
Discrimination protections Yes (both federal and territory law)
Family rights
Recognition of
De facto unions since 2003
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Australian territory known as the Northern Territory have only some of the same rights as heterosexual people.

Laws regarding homosexuality[edit]

The Northern Territory became self-governing in 1978 and the unicameral territory Parliament, headed by the conservative Country Liberal Party Government, passed and had immediately assented the territory Criminal Code Act in October 1983.[1] This code legalised some homosexual sex acts between consenting adult males in private, though imposed a consent age of 18 for such acts, as opposed to an age of 16 for heterosexual sex acts.[2] The code furthermore banned homosexual anal sex and similar acts which were done "in public", defined as occurring within the presence of only one or more observer. Age of consent equalisation laws were achieved via the Law Reform (Gender, Sexuality and De Facto Relationships) Act 2003, which went into effect in March 2004.[3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

De facto unions[edit]

The Northern Territory (NT) is one of two jurisdictions in Australia (the other being Western Australia) not to offer relationship registries and official domestic partnership schemes to same-sex couples. Same-sex unions are treated as de facto unions, with the Law Reform (Gender, Sexuality and De Facto Relationships) Act 2003 amending in turn the territory's De Facto Relationships Act to define de facto relationships as "2 persons...not married but have a marriage-like relationship".[4] This definition for the first time in the Territory resulted in LGBT people having a mechanism in the territory courts to resolve property disputes with their ex-partners. Prior to this reform, the non-financial contributions of a same-sex partner to a relationship could not be recognised in the same way as marriage or heterosexual de facto relationships. This could lead in some cases to a non-working partner not being able to obtain an appropriate property settlement.[5] Such reforms have since made it possible for same-sex couples in the NT to have most of the entitlements as married partners.[6] It also provides for de facto partners to make certain legal agreements relating to financial matters between the partners and ex-partners.[7]

Adoption and parenting rights[edit]

The Northern Territory's Adoption of Children Act specifically mentions that territory courts "shall only make an order for the adoption of a child in favour of a couple where the man and woman are married to each other and have been so married for not less than 2 years",[8] resulting in same-sex couples not having legal rights to apply to adopt.[9] Only in "exceptional circumstances" does territory law permit single LGBT or non-LGBT people to adopt.[10] A review of the territory's adoption laws was undertaken by Minister for Children and Families John Elferink in November 2015, though so far no proposals to Government have been made.[11]

Northern Territory law makes no mention of commercial or altruistic surrogacy arrangements, though a lack of such clinic presence and the fact that doctors providing assisted reproductive technology treatments are mostly from Adelaide, and subject to South Australian licensing and laws effectively means commercial surrogacy is banned and altruistic surrogacy is not possible due to virtually non-existence presence.[12] Regardless, almost all surrogacy arrangements in Australia involve a foreign surrogate.[13]

Same-sex couples can utilise ART and IVF services, and female de facto partners of pregnant women are treated under territory law as legal parents of any children born as a result of that birth.[14]

Discrimination protections[edit]

The Law Reform (Gender, Sexuality and De Facto Relationships) Act 2003[15] helped remove legislative discrimination against same sex couples in all areas of territory law – except adoption. The Act removed distinctions based on a person's gender, sexuality or de facto relationship in approximately 50 Acts and Regulations.

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1996[16] protects territory residents from discrimination on the grounds of sex and sexuality, amongst a host of other attributes, covering the areas of education; work; accommodation; goods and services; facilities; clubs; insurance and superannuation.[17] Transgender residents are not mentioned in the Act. Such individuals are entitled however to access sex reassignment surgery and subsequently have their name and birth certificate amended accordingly.[18]

Federal law also protects LGBT and Intersex people in the Northern Territory in the form of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013.[19]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1983 for males; always for females)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination state laws for sexual orientation Yes
Anti-discrimination state laws for gender identity or expression Yes
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation No
Hate crime laws include gender identity or expression No
Gay sex criminal records expunged No
Gay panic defence abolished Yes
Recognition in state law of same-sex couples as de facto couples Yes
Step adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Same-sex marriages No (federal jurisdiction)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No (one year deferral - Australia-wide)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]