Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

Appendix 1: New marriage forms still include gender bias.

Appendix 1. New forms still include gender bias.

The department has revised the marriage forms current ly used, without consultation with CoCA, which now requires asking couple to define themselves by gender identity as Groom/ Bride/Partner as well as by biological sex as Male/ Female/ X on the new Notice of Intended Marriage as well as requiring the couple to define themselves according to their gender identity as Husband/ Wife/Partner on the Official Certificate of Marriage rather than leaving this open field as the couples’ choice.  
    • The new Notice of Intended Marriage includes both requiring the couple to define themselves as Groom/ Bride/ Partner as well as Male/ Female/ X as well as the celebrant clarifying the couple have ticked the boxes correctly.


      Even if biological sex is required in relation to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is unusual given the Marriage Act Amendments made in December 2017 were intended to remove gender bias, this does place a burden on celebrants to asks questions that many couples, straight or same gender, no longer consider that civil marriage celebrants should be asking.

      This is a similar issue to items 17 and 18 related to “number of children in previous marriage or marriages”. As the Notice does not validate children of the couple born prior to their marriage and seemed to couples to discriminate against other children either party to the marriage may have had whilst not married, marriage celebrants are continually having to address couples concerns when completing the Notice. Since July 2014, CoCA has been advising the Department that this section of the Notice is not relevant as children are no longer to be judged as “illegitimate”  as we’d been advised the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) no longer does anything with the data.

      Unfortunately, even after three and half years’ work by the department on this issue, these items are still on the Notice.

      Even if there are grounds for requiring sex-based information by the ABS, CoCA does not consider the information about biological sex (or other equivalent terms) should be noted on the couple’s marriage certificate.  If ABS does require this information and cannot access the Notice, there are ways for a field to be computerised, but not displayed on the Marriage Certificate.

    • The new Official Marriage Certificate requires the parties to define themselves as
      Husband/ Wife/Partner. 


      CoCA considers the section “Description of party” should be an open response as is “Surname” so that couples are free to describe themselves in the terms as they wish, without having to choose between the three terms mandated by the form.
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