TABLE DECORATIONS: The Wedding Expo was held at the Burnett Riverside Motel.
TABLE DECORATIONS: The Wedding Expo was held at the Burnett Riverside Motel. Mike Knott

What we actually said Yes to

MANY Australians are celebrating the passing of same-sex marriage laws but what exactly are we cheering?

Heterosexual couples will be the first to experience the impact of the changes with celebrants required to meet new legal requirements starting on Saturday.

Here's what we can expect from the new laws passed this week.

FIRST, THE FORMALITIES

Today Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove signed off on the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 - the last step to making same-sex marriage legal in Australia.

The legal definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 has been changed from being a "union of a man and a woman" to a "union of two people".

Many other changes will be made to other acts such as the Sex Discrimination Act, Family Law Act, Migration Act and Australian Defence Force Cover Act, in order to remain consistent with this definition, but this is the major change.

The changes will come into effect on Saturday, December 9, with the first weddings able to take place from January 9.

WHAT IS SAID AT WEDDINGS WILL CHANGE

From Saturday, celebrants will have to read out a new monitum - a statement explaining the nature of marriage.

Previously civil celebrants would have to note that: "Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

This will be changed to reflect the change in definition to "union of two people".

The legal words that couples say at their wedding ceremony may also change.

Currently civil celebrants must say: "I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, (insert name here), take thee, (insert their name here), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)".

But couples will now be able to say "spouse" instead of "husband" or "wife" if they want.

RELIGIONS CAN SIT THIS ONE OUT

If a church or other religious organisation doesn't want to conduct a same-sex marriage, it doesn't have to. It also doesn't have to rent its community hall or other facilities for a wedding, or to provide any goods or services.

CELEBRANTS WILL BE DIFFERENT

Celebrants will be split into two different types. There will be a new class created of "religious marriage celebrant" who can refuse to conduct a marriage ceremony if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

Australian Defence Force chaplains will also be able to refuse to solemnise a marriage.

Celebrants have 90 days to decide whether they want to be registered as a "religious marriage celebrant" and identify as such in any advertising.

Only existing celebrants will be allowed to do this. Anyone who becomes a celebrant after Saturday, December 9 will be considered a "civil celebrant" and will not be allowed to refuse to marry gay couples.

This is in recognition that celebrants are authorised to perform a function on behalf of the state and should be required to uphold Commonwealth law.

SOME COUPLES WILL BE INSTANTLY MARRIED

Tomorrow, couples who married overseas will have their unions recognised under Australian law. This also makes it easier for them to divorce.

All future foreign same-sex marriages will also be recognised in Australia.

GENDER WILL NO LONGER BE AN ISSUE

People who changed genders were previously unable to change sex on birth certificates and other official documentation if they were married, as state or territory governments could refuse to do this as it could be seen as facilitating a same-sex union.

Many transgender people were forced to divorce if they wanted to officially change gender.

From December 9 next year, state and territory governments will no longer be able to block changes to birth certificates and other documents.

Governments are being given a year to implement this to give them enough time to change their legislation and other procedures.

The addition of the word "spouse" to the legal vows celebrants recite at weddings will also mean those who don't identify as male or female will be able to marry.

PROHIBITION AGAINST INCEST EXPANDED

The Marriage Act will also be changed so that a prohibited relationship between a "brother and a sister", will now say "two siblings" instead.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE BAKERS?

The law won't allow taxi drivers, florists, bakers or photographers in general to refuse to drive a person to a wedding reception, provide flowers, prepare a wedding cake or take photos.

This is consistent with existing anti-discrimination laws which do not allow refusals of service

THINGS COULD STILL CHANGE

The same-sex marriage bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives largely unchanged, partly out of respect for the Australian people's wishes - expressed in the postal survey's overwhelming Yes vote - but also because its provisions had been developed by a Senate Select Committee after consultation and three public hearings.

The bill introduced by Liberal Senator Dean Smith was supported by many political parties and was co-sponsored by eight other senators from Labor, Greens, NXT and Derryn Hinch's Justice Party.

But despite the broad agreement, some politicians were not happy about the protections for religious freedoms.

Whether these freedoms are adequately protected will be investigated by former immigration minister Philip Ruddock and a panel of experts, with findings expected to be known by the end of March next year.

In particular, there have been attempts to change the bill to allow people with a "conscientious belief" to refuse to be part of same-sex marriages. The most common example of this would be the baker who doesn't want to provide a cake for a gay couple's wedding.

There has also been a push to allow parents to remove their children from schools or lessons that teach material inconsistent with their views of marriage, and to protect doctors, teachers and other professionals from being deregistered for their beliefs.

But critics argue these changes have already been considered and rejected by the Senate Select Committee, are unnecessary, could give rise to discrimination against same-sex couples, and may have other unintended consequences.



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