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LGBT rights in Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria (Australia)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Yes
Recognition of
Statewide Relationships Register
Adoption No. Step parent adoptions allowed.
Discrimination protections Yes

While Victoria was at the forefront of the gay rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, it has never taken the lead in gay rights legislation. Victoria has a Domestic Partnership Register, which was launched in December 2008. Assisted reproductive technology, IVF, and altruistic surrogacy for same-sex couples has been passed into law, and will become legal in 2010. The state does not allow same-sex couples to adopt, but started allowing step parent adoptions in 2008.


Activism and decriminalisation

Gay activism in Australia began in Victoria, particularly in Melbourne. An Australian arm of the Daughters of Bilitis was formed in Melbourne in 1969, and is considered Australia's first gay rights organisation. The Melbourne-based gay rights organisation Society Five was formed in 1971.[1] Additional rights organisations followed, including the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition in 1975 and the Gay Teachers Group in the late 1970s[2], both of which were also based in Melbourne.

The gay community was keenly monitoring events in South Australia surrounding the decriminalisation of homosexuality which took place between 1972 and 1975. In 1976, The Age reported that police had used entrapment to make mass arrests at Black Rock Beach which angered the gay community and gave the issue wide public attention. Amidst the storm of protest and debate, widespread support for the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts surfaced within the political mainstream.[3][4]

It was not until December 1980 that a law was passed (72-7) to decriminalise homosexuality.[5] The age of consent for gay men was set at 18 in 1980 and was not equalised to 16 until 1994 (14 years later) [1].

Discrimination protections

Since 2000, Victoria prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the Equal Opportunity (Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation) Act 2000 - which amended the Equal Opportunity Act 1995.[6][7]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

In August 2001, the Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Act 2001 and the Statute Law Further Amendment (Relationships) Act 2001 amended 60 Acts in Victoria to give same-sex couples, called domestic partners, some rights equal to those enjoyed by de facto couples, including hospital access, medical decision making, superannuation, inheritance rights, property tax, landlord/tenancy rights, mental health treatment, and victims of crime procedures[8].

In March 2006, independent Victorian MP Andrew Olexander proposed a private member's bill to allow civil partnerships in the state, but the state government would not allow it to be drafted by the parliamentary counsel.[9]

The city of Melbourne provided a "Relationship Declaration Register" for all relationships and carers starting in April 2007. While the register does not confer legal rights in the way traditional marriage does, it may be used to demonstrate the existence of a de facto relationship in relation to the Property Laws Act 1958, the Administration and Probate Act 1958 and other legislation involving domestic partnerships.[10][11][12] The city of Yarra launched its Relationship Declaration Program the following month. Under the program two people may declare that they are partners and have this declaration recorded in the Yarra City Council Relationship Declaration Register.[13]

In December 2007, Victoria's parliament introduced the Relationships Bill 2007, to allow same-sex couples register their relationships state-wide with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This bill also amends 69 other pieces of legislation to include couples who are in registered relationships.[14] The Bill was passed by the Victorian Legislative Assembly, or lower house on 12 March 2008. All Labor MPs who were present voted in favour, 24 MPs voted against the bill, 54 voted for it.[15]. The Legislative Council, or upper house, voted in favour of the bill without amendments on 10 April 2008. Approved and given Royal Assent by the Governor on 15 April, the relationships register came into operation by 1 December 2008.[16]

Adoption and family planning

In May 1988, Victoria became the first State in Australia in which a child was born by use of IVF surrogacy. In July 1988, sections 11, 12, and 13 of the Infertility (Medical Procedures) Act 1984 were commenced to prevent a repetition of IVF surrogacy in Victoria, by prohibiting the use of IVF technology on women who have not been diagnosed as infertile and rendering commercial and altruistic surrogacy arrangements void.[17] In addition, only women who were married or in de facto relationships with men were allowed access to treatment.

On 28 July 2000, re McBain v State of Victoria, Justice Sundberg of the Federal Court of Australia concluded that the Victorian legislation infringed the prohibition on discrimination found in section 22 of the Sex Discrimination Act. This eliminated any marriage requirement, but did not clearly address the medical needs requirement. This legal decision has opened the door for lesbian couples to use IVF procedures.[18][19]

In June 2007, the Victorian Law Reform Commission released its final report recommending that the laws be modified to allow more people to use assisted reproductive technologies and to allow same-sex couples to adopt and be recognized as parents to their partner's children.[20] The proposed changes would also mean drastic reforms to surrogacy which, while technically legal, was practically impossible in Victoria: a woman would no longer have to be clinically infertile to be a surrogate mother. In addition, parents who have children through surrogacy would be able to go to the County Court and apply for a substitute parentage order for legal recognition.[21] Birth certificates could use the word parent instead of mother and father.[22]

Victoria is expected to adopt almost all of the 130 recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission in legislation which was introduced to Parliament in September 2008.[23] This will make IVF legal for all women (except sex offenders), and gives parents of surrogate children, including female same-sex partners, greater parenting rights.[24] Altruistic surrogacy would become legal, while commercial surrogacy would remain illegal. The Government stopped short of allowing same-sex couples full adoption rights.[25] According to the draft bill, the surrogate mother will be presumed to be the mother of the child unless or until a substitute parentage order is made in favour of the commissioning parents.

The lower house voted 47-34 to support the contentious Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill, with all Coalition members voting against it.[26] After passing the upper house, the bill was assented on 4 December 2008.

Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill 2008 Passed - Assented 4/12/08 (effective from 1.1.2010)

See also


  1. ^ Kaplan, Gisela (1996). The Meagre Harvest: The Australian Women's Movement 1950s-1990s. St Leonards. p. 93.  
  2. ^ "Melbourne Gay Teachers and Students Group" "A gay bibliography - Melbourne Gay Teachers Group"."Melbourne Gay Teachers and Students Group".  
  3. ^ "Melbourne Gay & Lesbian History series - Blackrock Beach Beat". Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives. Retrieved 2009-08-29.  
  4. ^ Roberts, Peter (1979-09-19). "State poised for gay law reform". The Age.,677136. Retrieved 2009-08-29.  
  5. ^ "Homosexual law reform in Australia". Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives. Retrieved 2009-08-29.  
  6. ^ "Sexual orientation and lawful sexual activity". Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 2007-09-03.  
  7. ^ "Equal Opportunity Act 1995". Austlii. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  8. ^ Same sex relationships, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission
  9. ^ "Australian Lawmaker's Civil Unions Bill Appears Doomed (19 March 2006)". Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  10. ^ "Victoria's first Relationship Declaration Register launched, Monday, 2 April 2007". City of Melbourne. Retrieved 2007-09-03.  
  11. ^ "VicSame-sex register for Victoria". 2007-04-24.,23599,21611975-29277,00.html?from=public_rss. Retrieved 2007-09-03.  
  12. ^ "Victoria's first Relationship Declaration Register launched". City of Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  13. ^ "First Couple to Sign Declaration for the Yarra Relationship Register". City of Yarra. 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2008-06-12.  
  14. ^ "Relationships Bill 2007".!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,relationship. Retrieved 2008-03-13.  
  15. ^ "Victoria's Next To Get Hitched". Retrieved 2008-03-13.  
  16. ^ "Vic relationships registry soon to be law (9 April 2008)". MCV. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  17. ^ "Lawlink NSW: 2. Current State of the Law". Lawlink NSW. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  18. ^ "McBain v State of Victoria: Access to IVF for all Women". Parliamant of Australia. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  19. ^ "IVF decision brings charge of social experimentation". ABC News. 2000-07-28. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  20. ^ "Assisted Reproduction and Adoption, Final Report". Victorian Law Reform Commission. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  21. ^ Nader, Carol (2007-06-08). "Gays, singles may get more IVF help". The Age. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  22. ^ Gardiner, Ashley; Whinnett, Ellen (2007-06-08). "Cabinet split looms on IVF". Herald Sun.,21985,21868589-2862,00.html?from=public_rss. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  23. ^ "Who's your mummy? (December 15, 2007)". Melbourne Community Voice. Retrieved 2008-05-15.  
  24. ^ "Victorian IVF win for Lesbians". Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  25. ^ "Victoria catches up on surrogacy and IVF law (December 15, 2007)". The Australian.,25197,22927378-23289,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-14.  
  26. ^ Best, Catherine (2008-10-10). "Lesbians celebrate fertility law victory". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 2008-10-10.  

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