The expansion of legal rights and protections afforded to same-sex couples in Australia is well developed at both federal and state level. For example, legislation now exists in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory that provides for the legal recognition of relationships, including same-sex unions.

At the federal level, in 2008 and 2009, there was a wide-ranging suite of reforms to provide equal entitlements and responsibilities for same-sex couples in areas such as social security, employment, taxation and superannuation. However, there remains one significant area of difference between the treatment of same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and that is in relation to the institution of marriage. While there are fewer and fewer rights and obligations attached to married couples which do not attach to de facto couples—a status currently encompassing same-sex couples in most legal contexts—supporters of gay rights argue this is not enough, and that the remaining differences are unacceptable.

Thus, civil unions and domestic partner registries are regarded as insufficient and, for true equality, same-sex couples must have the right to marry. Undoubtedly, for some in the community, the concept of same-sex marriage is complex and controversial, raising social, religious, moral and political questions.

The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey was a national survey designed to gauge support for legalising same-sex marriage in Australia. The survey returned 7,817,247 (61.6%) “Yes” responses and 4,873,987 (38.4%) “No” responses. An additional 36,686 (0.3%) responses were unclear and the total turnout was 12,727,920 (79.5%).

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