Same-sex couples embrace the tradition of marriage


After many years of public and parliamentary debate, and a postal survey designed to settle the question of public support, marriage equality in Australia became a reality on 9 December 2017. From that date, the right to marry under Australian law is no longer determined by sex or gender.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has worked in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department and Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each state and territory, and is now collecting and publishing statistics on same-sex marriages in its annual publication Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2017.

This ABS publication generally reports on marriages and divorces in Australia during the preceding year. However, due to this significant change to the Marriage Act 1961 and strong interest in the topic, the publication includes, for the first time, preliminary data on same-sex marriages from December 2017 until June 2018. More detailed information on all Australian marriages registered in 2018 will be released in line with the ABS’s normal publication schedule in November 2019.

When completing a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form, each party may choose to identify as ‘Male’, ‘Female’ or ‘X’ (any person who does not choose to identify as either male or female). Where both parties identify as female or male, ABS marriage statistics now record that registered marriage as same-sex; those registered marriages where one or both persons have chosen to identify as X are excluded from counts of male or female same-sex marriage.

Between 9 December 2017 and 30 June 2018, there were 3,149 same-sex marriages registered in Australia; over one third were in New South Wales (1,090) followed by Victoria (826), Queensland (595), Western Australia (315), South Australia (174), Tasmania (67), the Australian Capital Territory (59) and the Northern Territory (23). Data is for the state or territory of registration rather than usual residence of the couple.

Overseas residents who marry while visiting Australia are included in marriage statistics provided by the registry in the State or Territory in which their marriage is registered. Australian couples who marry overseas are not included.

Over the six month period, same-sex female couples out-numbered male couples—56.3 per cent were female compared with 43.7 per cent male.

Male same-sex couples were older (median age 48.5 years compared with 39.0 years for female same-sex couples). Male couples were also much less likely to have been married previously; 85.8 per cent of males and 80.5 per cent of females were married for the first time.

The following chart shows the relatively younger age profile of females marrying. The chart also shows that, for all age groups from 45–49 to 70–74 years, there were similar numbers of males and females marrying, while in the 25–29 and 30–34 years age groups, there were around twice the number of females marrying as males. Over one in 10 people marrying in same-sex marriages were aged 65 years and over—compared with fewer than one in 50 for all marriages in 2017.

Age profile of same-sex marriages, December 2017 to June 2018

 Same-sex registered marriages, Age group, Males and Females, Dec 2017-Jun 2018

Overwhelmingly, civil marriages outnumbered religious ceremonies, with civil celebrants officiating at 99.0 per cent of same-sex marriages.

Same-sex couples have embraced the legislative change which allows them to marry. It is unlikely the number of same-sex marriages registered in this six month period will continue at the same pace.

Clients of the Parliamentary Library can request assistance to interpret the statistics or find other relevant data by contacting the Parliamentary Library.

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