UN Finds Same-Sex Divorce Ban Violates Human Rights

A ruling by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) has found that Australian laws prohibiting same-sex couples from divorcing if they married abroad breaches international human rights responsibilities and constitutes discrimination.

The case of Queensland woman Fiona Campbell was taken to the UN in 2012 after she was forbidden to end her 2004 marriage to Canadian woman, Ms A.

The UN found Dr Campbell’s treatment constituted discrimination based on her sexual orientation, before stating that the Australian Government was required to provide her with an appropriate remedy.

The Committee also made further reference to Australian law allowing those involved in polygamous marriages overseas to divorce, even though (like same-sex marriage) polygamy is banned in Australia.

Gay rights activist, Rodney Croome, from LGBTQI group Just Equal, stated that “this decision is a timely reminder to the Australian government that banning same-sex couples from marriage is a breach of human rights.”

Dr Campbell is reportedly elated upon hearing the decision, and optimistic in the Government’s ability to act. Although initially following through with divorce proceedings would have been difficult because she had not lived in Canada for at least a year, the laws have since changed.  However, Dr Campbell revealed divorce proceedings in Canada would be an arduous process since she has had difficulty contacting her spouse.

Dr Campbell remains hopeful that dissolving the marriage will allow her to have the opportunity to remarry and travel in the future.

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.