Polygamy in Australia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Polygamy is not permitted in Australia. Polygamous marriages may not be performed in Australia,[1] [2] 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.[3] Whether or not either or both partners were aware of the previous subsisting marriage, the second marriage is void.[4]

Polygamous marriages entered into in jurisdictions that legally recognise and perform such unions may be legally valid in Australia for some purposes.[5][6] While the extent of benefits granted to a foreign polygamous marriage are unclear, benefits such as welfare are legally granted to each spouse and their children.[7] In addition, the polygamous marriage is recognised for the purpose of a spouse having access to the Family Court for divorce, and involving property settlement and children issues.[8]

Legalisation proposal[edit]

A number of Islamic leaders, particularly Imams have advocated the legalisation of polygamous marriages in Australia,[9][10][11] which has stirred a controversial and emotional debate.[12][13] Proponents of polygamy have claimed that legalisation would "protect the rights of women,"[14] while opponents have claimed that it would "endanger the Australian way of life."[15]

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."[16]


There is a small community of polyamorists in Australia who are working towards the removal of prejudice against multiple-partner relationships and ultimately to the legalisation of polyamorous marriage.[17][18][19]

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".[20] The issue was resolved by having restrictions placed on the polyamory group's signage within the parade.[21] A polyamory float was entered in the 2012 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras based on the theme "Queer Polyamory".[22] There was a polyamory float in the 2014 Mardi Gras, themed, "Polyamory Sydney ‘Birds of a Feather, love together’ – the infinite love Nest".[23]

See also[edit]