A major concern is the prevention of Child and Forced marriages.
The current Marriage Act definition
" marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life"
This definition implies a level of maturity that is not evident in the proposed definitions of various Bills before Parliament which state:
" marriage means the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life".
The TCN Inc recommends that a comparable expression to reinforce that child or forced marriage is not acceptable in Australia would be:
" marriage means the union of two consenting adults to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life".
When the Marriage Act was written in the 1950’s, the understanding of marriage being a relationship between consenting adults was universally accepted by the religions that were “recognised” under the Act at that time.
Consequently the need to ensure principles of consent and transparency in the ceremony was not in question. Today there are over 120 diverse religious denominations recognised under the Marriage (Recognised Denominations) Proclamation 2007 and over 500 independent religions.
All use the form of ceremony approved by their religious body, which may not include the three basic components required of all civil marriages. These are:
- The celebrant is required to state that they are authorised to solemnise a legal marriage by using the words specified in Section 46;
- The couple is required to each state their consent to marry in the presence of the celebrant, two witnesses and the guests attending the ceremony by using the words contained in Section 45. (The current words are archaic and date from English law of 1836. They would benefit from rewriting into plain language)
- In accordance with Section 113 the civil celebrant must make it clear if the ceremony they are conducting is not a legal marriage. (For example, if the couple have married legally on an overseas holiday and then want to have a “wedding” with their family and friends in Australia, the civil celebrant must state that the ceremony is not a legal marriage.
TCN Inc recommends that these three components should be part of all legal marriages in Australia whether religious or civil.