Same-sex marriage is now legal

[Issue date: 8/12/2017]

The Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 has now been amended to allow two people to marry, regardless of their sex. The NSW Registry can now recognise any marriage that has taken place overseas. 

Couples will not need to do anything to register their overseas marriage. If they are already legally married overseas, they cannot get married again in Australia.

For more information visit the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s website 

To celebrate this historic moment, the Registry has released five new commemorative marriage certificate designs

Couples who are intending to marry will first need to complete and lodge the revised Notice of Intended Marriage - PDF with their celebrant or with the Registry (if getting married at the Registry).

If you are interested in getting married with the Registry please complete the Registry wedding bookings form.

Frequently asked questions

How have marriage laws in Australia changed?

The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 became law on 9 December 2017. Couples regardless of sex can now marry in Australia by lodging a Notice of Intended Marriage. Parties are able to marry one month after the Notice is lodged.

What is the Registry’s role?

To register marriages that take place in the State of NSW in accordance with the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 and the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995.

Registry Weddings are conducted in Chippendale and Parramatta Registries and venues in Wollongong. The same fees and conditions apply to all Registry weddings.

How can same-sex couples get married?

Same-sex couples can apply to get married by contacting their chosen Celebrant or the Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages if they wish to get married with the Registry.

Can the waiting period be shortened?

The one-month waiting period can only be shortened in exceptional circumstances, e.g. if one of the partners is terminally ill or is conscripted at short notice to serve overseas in the Australian Defence Force.

My same-sex partner and I were married overseas. Can we register our marriage in NSW?

If you were legally married in a same-sex marriage in another country, that marriage will now be automatically recognised under the Marriage Act. The NSW Registry only registers marriages conducted in NSW.

Can the Registry perform a renewal of vows ceremony?

No, the Registry’s primary role is to register life events that take place in NSW and to administer the relevant laws that apply.

My same-sex partner and I were married overseas, then had a child. Can our overseas marriage be recorded on our child’s birth certificate?

Yes, it can, the Registry can change and issue a new birth certificate to include the marriage details.

What if our child was born before we got married overseas as a same-sex couple? Can our marriage be recorded on our child’s birth certificate?

Yes. Although your marriage occurred after the birth of your child, the Registry can record the parents’ marriage on any birth registration of a child. The Registry will require evidence of your overseas marriage.

What vows can we use at our same-sex marriage ceremony?

So long as the legalities are covered, couples are usually given the option to personalise their vows. Parties state that they take each other to be their wedded wife or husband or spouse (or words to that effect). S45 (2) of the Marriage Act has been amended to include the word ‘spouse’.

Will the sex of each spouse be recorded separately in the register?

The information recorded by the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages relating to the sex of spouses will be recorded for statistical purposes.

What will appear on the marriage certificate?

Couples can choose from Bride, Groom or Partner on the Notice of Intended Marriage.

What will my marital status be because I divorced my previous same-sex partner overseas?

Your marital status will be “divorced”. Any person previously married is required to show dissolution of their previous marriage i.e. divorce papers.

How do I go about changing my name after marriage?

If you are legally married in Australia a formal Change of Name is not normally required if you wish to take your spouse’s name. A Standard Marriage Certificate is usually sufficient evidence to have personal documentation, such as your driver’s licence and passport, changed to your married surname. 

If you decide to take your spouse’s name when dealing with authorities such as Roads & Maritime Services or the Australian Passports Office, you may be asked to show your Marriage Certificate issued by the NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages. Please check with the relevant authority in each case to determine their specific requirements.

I had to officially change my name because my overseas marriage was not recognised. Can I get a refund?

No refunds or discounts apply in these instances.

We are a couple from a country where same-sex marriage is not legally valid. Can we marry in Australia?

Yes, however your marriage may not be legally recognised in other countries.

Can I get a death certificate for my late partner amended to show our overseas marriage? Also, can I amend the death record of my relative who was married in a same-sex marriage prior to their death.

Yes. An amended death certificate can be issued detailing the overseas marriage. The amended death certificate will contain an endorsement referring to the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 recognising the marriage as valid from 9 December 2017. 

Death records can be amended to detail a same-sex marriage that occurred prior to death. Amended records would detail that the same-sex marriage that occurred prior to 9  December 2017 was recognised as valid from 9 December 2017 in accordance with the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017.

How do the laws affect a registered relationship?

Changes to the Marriage Act commenced on 9 December 2017. Consequently, certain same-sex marriages solemnised in a foreign country are now recognised as valid in Australia. If such a marriage took place prior to 9 December 2017, it will be recognised in Australia as valid from 9 December 2017. Under the Relationships Register Act 2010 (NSW), the registration of a registered relationship is revoked when one of the partners in the relationship marries. 

This means that a previously valid registered relationship may now have to be revoked. This however is a complex question that will depend upon the individual facts of the particular case. Further information can be provided by the Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages upon request.