Polygamy in Australia
Polygamy is not permitted in Australia. Polygamous marriages may not be performed in Australia, 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. Whether or not either or both partners were aware of the previous subsisting marriage, the second marriage is void.
Polygamous marriages entered into in jurisdictions that legally recognise and perform such unions may be legally valid in Australia for some purposes. 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. 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.
In 2008, a number of Islamic leaders, particularly Imams advocated the legalisation of polygamous marriages in Australia, which stirred controversial and emotional debate. Proponents of polygamy have claimed that legalisation would "protect the rights of women," while opponents have claimed that it would "endanger the Australian way of life." 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."
In 2011, a small community of polyamorists in Australia were working towards the removal of prejudice against multiple-partner relationships and ultimately to the legalisation of polyamorous marriage.
In 2012 polyamorists again lobbied for marriage recognition with the Australian "poly community" claimed to be, "diverse, and thriving", however the Australian Greens have said that equal rights should involve only two consenting adults. The Greens were accused of "narrowmindedness, denial of equality, fear of sexual difference and political expediency" and of being "hypocrites" because the logic they use to argue for marriage equality should extend to people who have multiple partners.
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". The issue was resolved by having restrictions placed on the polyamory group's signage within the parade. A polyamory float was entered in the 2012 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras based on the theme "Queer Polyamory".
Former High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby said in 2012, "I have known homosexual people in a relationship of three . . . . Human relationships are complicated, but these, I would respectfully suggest, are issues for the future".
Dan Savage developed the term monogamish, being a relationship that’s "mostly monogamous". He lectured in Melbourne in 2013 promoting this concept. Another term, developed by Savage, is throuple, which is used to describe a (polygamous) relationship of three people. The functioning of monogamish relationships is being explored. Concern has been raised in regards to 'monogamish' and 'throuple' as both redefine relationships, "primarily about adult desire".
In 2013 polyamory activists were saying, "For too long has Australia denied people the right to marry the ones they care about. We find this abhorrent. We believe that everyone should be allowed to marry their partners, and that the law should never be a barrier to love. And that's why we demand nothing less than the full recognition of polyamorous families."
- Marriage in Australia
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Australia
- Rights charter is from 2009
- MARRIAGE ACT 1961 (Australia) s94(1).
- Sect 23(1)(a) of the Marriage Act 1961
- MARRIAGE ACT 1961(Australia) s23B(1)a.
- Probing polygamy
- Islamic Polygamy, Western Monogamy
- Probing polygamy
- Sect 6 of the Family Law Act 1975
- Muslim Leaders Call for Australia to Recognize Polygamy
- Australia: Polygamy should be legal, says sheikh
- Legalise polygamous unions: Muslim leaders
- Australia in Muslim Polygamy Debate
- Polygamous marriages, in Australia?
- Australia: Polygamous Marriages, Multiple Reactions
- Polygamy - the right to put down women
- No recognition for polygamous marriage
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