In a first, the next Australian census will count same-sex couples who have gotten married abroad. "Census night" is Aug. 9.
"It is an important sign of respect that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will allow same-sex partners to indicate if they are married on the census," said Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Peter Furness. "It also highlights how nonsensical the federal government's failure to recognize same-sex marriage has become. We urge all same-sex partners who want to indicate they are married to take advantage of the fact that now they can."
Same-sex marriage is not allowed in Australia and Australian same-sex couples can't even get married in all countries where it is allowed because the Australian government refuses to issue them the "certificate of non-impediment to marriage" that some nations require of foreign couples.
Nonetheless, thousands of same-sex couples have managed to get married overseas. Many married in Canada, which does not require a non-impediment certificate, AME said, while other couples acquired a certificate from their state government rather than the federal government.
"Only some places that allow same-sex marriages require the documents that the Australian government doesn't issue," said AME's Rodney Croome.
Nations that have accepted a non-impediment document issued by one of Australia's state governments include South Africa, the Netherlands and Portugal, Croome said.
The new census figures collected Aug. 9 will be made public next July.
"ABS will provide the government with a baseline figure for the number of couples they are discriminating against on July 12, 2012, which is expected to be a key time in the marriage-equality debate," said Furness, who got married in Canada in 2006.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide). It also is legal in six U.S. states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont -- and Washington, D.C.