Civil Unions

On 22 August 2012 the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly passed the Civil Unions Act 2012 (the Act). The Act enables couples, who are unable to marry under the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961, to enter into a legally recognised relationship. The Act started on 11 September 2012 and was repealed by the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013. The High Court held on 12 December 2013 that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 is invalid. As such, the repeal of the Civil Unions Act 2012 is of no effect and civil unions can again take place in the ACT.The Act recognises that a civil union is different to a marriage but is treated under territory law in the same way as a marriage.

Since civil partnerships are a type of domestic relationship, the Act transfers the civil partnerships scheme to theDomestic Relationships Act 1994. The Domestic Relationships Act 1994 will preserve the mechanism for two people, regardless of their sex, to enter a formally recognised relationship, known as a civil partnership.

Information on civil unions is below.

For further information on civil partnerships please refer to the civil partnerships page.

The Office of Regulatory Services (ORS) registers civil unions under the Act. Couples who wish to enter into a civil union must engage a civil union celebrant to conduct a ceremony prior to its registration.

What is a civil union?

A civil union is a legally recognised relationship that has a number of consequences under A.C.T. law. The Act recognises that a civil union is different to a marriage but is treated under territory law in the same way as a marriage.

A person may enter into a civil union only if they are:

an adult; and,
the person is not –

  • married; or,
  • in a civil union; or,
  • in a civil partnership with someone other than the person’s proposed civil union partner; and,
  • the person cannot marry the person’s proposed civil union partner under the Marriage Act 1961 (Cwlth); and,
  • the person does not have any of the following relationships with the person’s proposed civil union partner:
  • lineal ancestor;
  • lineal descendent;
  • sister;
  • half-sister;
  • brother;
  • half-brother; and,
  • the person, or the person’s proposed civil union partner, or both of them, live in the A.C.T.

If you are unsure whether you and your partner should enter into a civil union you should seek independent legal advice.

If you don’t meet the above criteria you may still be able to enter into a civil partnership. Click here for further information on civil partnerships.

Do I have to be an A.C.T. resident to enter into a civil union?

At least one of the proposed parties to a civil union must live in the A.C.T. Two forms of evidence of residency must be provided. The evidence of residency must have the person’s address listed and may be:

  • a photographic driver licence;
  • contract of purchase, current lease or rental document;
  • a current A.C.T. Revenue Office Rates Notice;
  • a current Land Tax Valuation Notice;
  • an Australian Taxation Office Assessment (last or current financial year) or an Australian Taxation Office tax file number notice issued in the last 12 months;
  • Utility accounts paid within the last six months;
  • pay television account paid within the last six months;
  • home contents policy dated within one year of the application;
  • motor vehicle insurance policy dated within one year of the application; or,
  • current health/life insurance policy or renewal notice within one year of the application.

I want to enter into a civil union.

To enter into a civil union, 2 people must have given notice to a civil union celebrant of their intention to enter into a civil union with each other. The notice must be accompanied by a statutory declaration and the evidence required under the Act. The civil union celebrant will go through these requirements with you.

The couple may enter into a civil union by making a declaration:

  • before a civil union celebrant and at least 1 other witness; and,
  • not 1 month, and no later than 18 months, after the day the notice was given to the civil union celebrant.
  • The declaration must be made by each person to the other and must contain a clear statement that names both parties and acknowledges that they are freely entering into a civil union with each other. The civil union will take effect upon this declaration.

Civil union celebrant details are available on the Civil Union Celebrant Register.

Each person must provide identification and at least one proposed civil union partner must provided evidence of residency within the A.C.T. as listed above. Forms of identification must be either:

  • the person’s birth certificate; or,
  • the person’s citizenship certificate; or,
  • the person’s current passport; or,
  • a statutory declaration made by the person stating:
  • that it is impracticable to obtain a document mentioned above; and,
  • to the best of the person’s knowledge and belief, and as accurately as the person has been able to find out, when and where the person was born.

I want to register my civil union at the Office of Regulatory Services.

Under the Act, civil unions are performed by a civil union celebrant. The civil union celebrant will organise the registration of the civil union with the Office of Regulatory Services (ORS).

Persons wanting to register a civil partnership may apply to the ORS by completing an Application to Register A Civil Partnership. For further information regarding civil partnerships click here.

I am in a civil partnership and I want to be in a civil union.

If you meet the criteria for a civil union you may go through the appropriate steps above with your civil partner and on entering into the civil union your civil partnership is ended. If you wish to enter into a civil union with a different partner then you must first cancel your civil partnership.