Polygamy in Australia
Polygamy is not permitted in Australia. Polygamous marriages may not be performed in Australia, and a person who marries another person, knowing that the previous marriage is still subsisting, commits an offence of bigamy under section 94 of the Marriage Act 1961, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Whether or not either or both partners were aware of the previous subsisting marriage, the second marriage is void. Foreign polygamous marriages are not recognized in Australia. However, a foreign marriage that is not polygamous but could potentially become polygamous at a later date under the law of the country where the marriage took place is recognized in Australia while any subsequent polygamous marriage is not.
In 2008, a small number of Islamist leaders advocated the legalisation of polygamous marriages in Australia, which stirred controversial and emotional debate. Proponents of polygamy have claimed that legalisation would "protect the rights of women," while opponents have claimed that it would "endanger the Australian way of life." In response to the intensifying debate, Australia's former Attorney General Robert McClelland remarked that "There is absolutely no way that the government will be recognising polygamist relationships. They are unlawful and they will remain as such. Under Australian law, marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. Polygamous marriage necessarily offends this definition."
In 2011, a small community of polyamorists in Australia were working towards the removal of prejudice against multiple-partner relationships and ultimately to the legalisation of polyamorous marriage.
In 2012 polyamorists again lobbied for marriage recognition with the Australian "poly community" claimed to be, "diverse, and thriving", however the Australian Greens have said that equal rights should involve only two consenting adults. The Greens were accused of "narrowmindedness, denial of equality, fear of sexual difference and political expediency" and of being "hypocrites" because the logic they use to argue for marriage equality should extend to people who have multiple partners.
In the lead-up to the 2012 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras LGBTI polyamorists were offended when their application to enter a float was questioned. A concern for Mardi Gras organisers was reconciling any endorsement of polyamorous relationships, while at the same time promoting marriage equality for couples. Polyamorists felt excluded particularly as the Mardi Gras theme was "universal and infinite love". The issue was resolved by having restrictions placed on the polyamory group's signage within the parade. A polyamory float was entered in the 2012 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras based on the theme "Queer Polyamory".
Former High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby said in 2012, "I have known homosexual people in a relationship of three . . . . Human relationships are complicated, but these, I would respectfully suggest, are issues for the future".
Dan Savage developed the term monogamish, being a relationship that’s "mostly monogamous". He lectured in Melbourne in 2013 promoting this concept. Another term, developed by Savage, is throuple, which is used to describe a (polygamous) relationship of three people. The functioning of monogamish relationships is being explored. Concern has been raised in regards to 'monogamish' and 'throuple' as both redefine relationships, "primarily about adult desire".
In 2013 polyamory activists were saying, "For too long has Australia denied people the right to marry the ones they care about. We find this abhorrent. We believe that everyone should be allowed to marry their partners, and that the law should never be a barrier to love. And that's why we demand nothing less than the full recognition of polyamorous families."
There was a polyamory float in the 2014 Mardi Gras, themed, "Polyamory Sydney ‘Birds of a Feather, love together’ – the infinite love Nest".
2016 court ruling
On March 4, 2016, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia ruled that a polygamous marriage is illegal in Australia but a foreign marriage, which is ‘potentially polygamous’ when it is entered into, will be recognised as a valid marriage in Australia. A marriage is ‘potentially polygamous’ if it is not polygamous but the law in the country where the original marriage took place allows a polygamous marriage of one or both partners to the original marriage at a later date. The court also ruled that if the husband took a second wife, the second marriage would not be legally recognised while the husband was still married to his first wife.
- Marriage in Australia
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Australia
- Rights charter is from 2009
- MARRIAGE ACT 1961 (Australia) s94(1).
- Sect 23(1)(a) of the Marriage Act 1961
- MARRIAGE ACT 1961(Australia) s23B(1)a.
- Muslim Leaders Call for Australia to Recognize Polygamy
- Australia: Polygamy should be legal, says sheikh
- Legalise polygamous unions: Muslim leaders
- Polygamous marriages, in Australia?
- Polygamy - the right to put down women
- No recognition for polygamous marriage
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