Australia's first gay divorce planned under same-sex marriage laws

Sydney (AFP) –


Australia is set for its first gay divorce days after a historic marriage equality law came into effect, with lawyers preparing to file papers for a woman caught in legal limbo after marrying at a foreign consulate.

Following a parliamentary vote in favour of a landmark gay marriage bill last week, couples wanting to wed were able to begin lodging their notice to marry on Saturday, while those married overseas saw their unions recognised in Australian law -- opening the way for divorce.

Solicitor Maria Loukas said Monday she was preparing divorce papers for a client who married in a European country's consulate in Western Australia in 2015, but was unable to divorce after separating from her partner because she was not a resident of that nation.

"For her it's been about not being able to move on with her life," Loukas told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It's been about not being able to tidy up the end of something to be able to start fresh somewhere else," the solicitor added. "She's been held back in many ways."

Australia's historic gay marriage reforms passed Canberra's 150-seat lower House of Representatives on Thursday when all but four MPs voted in support of marriage equality.

Following a decade of heated debate the bill was introduced in parliament by the conservative government after Australians last month overwhelmingly endorsed the reforms in a controversial postal vote.

Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the poll, and almost 62 percent of the 12.7 million people who participated chose "yes" on their ballots.

Same-sex marriage is now recognised in more than 20 countries, of which 16 are in Europe.