Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

Child - Forced Marriage and the Australian Marriage Act

How can anyone agree be married in Australia without giving free and informed consent?

  • Couples married by Ministers of the 140+ Recognised Religions (Subdivision A) are not required to give consent to marry in the marriage ceremony of that religion, unless consent is a part of the religious marriage rite. (Section 45)

  • In some Recognised Religions' wedding ceremonies, couples are not required to give consent, and the language used is not required to be understood by the couple. (Section 45)

  • Religious celebrants of both Recognised Religions  (Subdivision A) and independent religious celebrants (part of Subdivision C) are not required to tell the couple, witnesses or guests that they are authorised by law to marry the couple before them, during their religious marriage rite. (Section 46)

  • In fact any unauthorised religious celebrant can conduct a religious marriage without telling the couple, witnesses or guests that the ceremony is not a legal marriage ceremony under Australian law. (Section 113)

How can Government do to address this?

The first step is to ensure the law is consistent in respect to the same basic legal requirements for marriage at all wedding ceremonies, whether conducted by religious or civil celebrants.

Then public education and other strategies have a coherent and consistent message.

Only 3 sections of the Marriage Act need simple amendment - Sections 45, 46 and 113.

  • Free consent by the couple in front of the guests. Amend Section 45 to ensure all marrying couples give simple consent to be married in the ceremony. e.g.  I, A take you, B, to be my husband/ wife.

  • Definition of marriage according to law.  Amend Section 46 to ensure all marriage celebrants whether religious or civil must give a definition of marriage according to civil law.

  • Declaration of marriage according to civil law. Amend Section 113 so all celebrants are required to declare to all present, whether they are conducting a marriage according to Australian law or not.

  • Declaration of celebrant's legal authority to marry. Amend Section 46 to ensure all celebrants declare before the couple, witnesses and guest, that they are legally authorised to conduct a marriage according to the Marriage Act 1961.

These four basic requirements are very simple, to add without affecting the reigious ceremony, as currently required of all civil celebrants.

One Marriage Act for one nation needs one set of simple legal basics requirements for all couples and all celebrants, whatever the style of ceremony.

See Examples:How simple changes could bring basic consistency and transparency to all marriage ceremonies, whether religious or civil.

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