The Federal Government is set to repeal the Marriage Act on July 1, 2018.
It will be the first major reform of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in almost a century.
But this is a significant milestone in the history of the legislation, as it marks a new era in Australian society, and one which will see the Australian Federal Police (AFP) start to step in and monitor relationships and the courts.
What will the AFP do?
In a nutshell, the AFP will begin monitoring all marriages and relationships in Australia, regardless of the venue and other factors that are currently considered a factor in the decision.
It has already begun its work.
What happens if there are changes to the laws?
In the past, the Australian Government has generally not changed the law in a manner that could affect people who live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, such as Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
The new changes to both the Marriage and Family Act will mean that same-gender couples in Australia will have the same rights as opposite-gender spouses.
But if there is a change to the Marriage Amendment Act, which is currently before Parliament, then the new law will need to be approved by both houses of Parliament.
This will take time, so it is expected that some changes to existing laws will be made.
But these will be minor.
The changes will apply to all couples regardless of whether or not they are currently married, as well as to any couple who has been married or is about to marry in the future.
How will the changes affect the legal system?
The changes mean that any marriage that is solemnised, or any civil partnership, will need a judge’s approval to be valid.
The AFP will also need to monitor relationships where the parties are married or in a civil partnership.
But it will not be able to change any laws regarding who can be a spouse or partner in a domestic partnership.
Where are the proposed changes coming from?
The proposal for a new Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Couples Act) was originally brought forward by the Liberal Party in the 2013 election.
Since then, the Federal Government has been working on the legislation and the Coalition Government has said it would be an “important piece of legislation”.
The Government is seeking public support for the proposed change in a number of ways.
One is by giving the Government more leeway to introduce the changes it wants.
If it was clear that the change would not have a majority support, the Government could introduce the legislation without the need for a royal commission.
Secondly, the government is proposing to change the definition of marriage in a way that would not affect other aspects of the law.
The proposal to change marriage from being between a man and a woman to being between two men and two women would also not affect the definition and legal status of a domestic partner, who is considered the biological spouse of the partner in the relationship.
But some of the proposals to change definitions of marriage and civil partnerships would impact on how people will be able access their benefits.
If you or someone you know is considering a change in their marriage, contact the Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If they are a new person and they are concerned about their benefits, it is important that they talk to their GP, social worker, or other support provider first.
The ACT Government has also launched a website, www.actfamilyservices.gov.au, where people can access information about the changes and their options.
In the meantime, if you or anyone you know who is considering changing their relationship is considering an appeal, contact ACT Family Services on 1300 954 468.