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Church challenges landmark court ruling on marriage

Churches have urged the Federal Government to appeal a Family Court decision that has "re-defined the meaning of marriage and legalised transsexual marriages".

On Friday, the Full Bench of the Family Court of Australia, headed by Family Court Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson, threw out the appeal and ruled Kevin and Jennifer's marriage lawful under the Marriage Act 1961.

The Full Bench also re-defined the meaning of "man" in the Marriage Act to include "a post-operative transsexual". It also said procreation was not a principal purpose of marriage and confirmed a marriage did not need to be consummated to be valid.

They initially won their case in the Family Court in 1999 but federal Attorney- General Daryl Williams appealed to the Full Bench of the court. On Friday night Mr Williams said he was considering a High Court challenge.

But the Catholic Church, Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile and Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the judgement needs to be overturned in the High Court - especially after it re-interpreted legal tenets of marriage.

Dr Warwick Neville, research fellow with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said he would be "astonished" if the decision was not challenged in the High Court.

"I would encourage the Commonwealth to do so."

Mr Nile said the Family Court needed new judges.

Mr Springborg said: "I have a simple view. You are who you are at the time you were born."

The case centred on "Kevin", who was born female, and his wife "Jennifer", who asked the court to validate their marriage as "husband and wife". Kevin underwent a sex change before the marriage and the couple have two children through IVF.


Family Court of Australia | The Attorney-General for the Commonwealth and "Kevin and Jennifer" and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [2003] FamCA 94 (summary of judgment)

24 Feb 2003