5 June 2017

Montenegro becomes the 29th member of the NATO.

Montenegro became NATO’s newest member on Monday 5 June 2017, upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC. At a ceremony marking the occasion, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underlined that Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance contributes to international peace and security, and sends a strong signal that NATO’s door remains open. The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Duško Markovi? and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro Srdjan Darmanovi? and was hosted by the United States Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon.

“Today, Montenegro joins NATO with a seat at the table as an equal, with an equal voice in shaping our Alliance, and its independence guaranteed,” the Secretary General said. Mr. Stoltenberg noted that NATO will benefit from Montenegro’s insight into the Western Balkans “and the professionalism, bravery and dedication of its men and women in uniform”. He stressed that NATO’s collective pledge, Article 5, has kept Allies safe for almost seven decades.

Allied Foreign Ministers signed Montenegro’s Accession Protocol in May 2016, after which all 28 national parliaments voted to ratify Montenegro’s membership. A flag-raising ceremony for Montenegro will take place at NATO Headquarters on 7 June 2017.

Today marks NATO’s first enlargement since 1 April 2009, when Albania and Croatia joined the Alliance.

7 December 2017

The Marriage Amendment Bill to recognize same sex marriage passes in Australia.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since 9 December 2017. The legislation to allow same-sex marriage, the Marriage Amendment Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017 and received royal assent from the Governor-General the following day. The law came into effect on 9 December, immediately recognising overseas same-sex marriages. The first same-sex wedding under Australian law was held on 15 December 2017. The passage of the law followed a voluntary postal survey of all Australians, in which 61.6% of respondents supported same-sex marriage.

Other types of recognition for same-sex couples are also available. Under federal law, same-sex couples can also be recognised as de facto relationships, which provide most of the same rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples, although those rights may be difficult to assert and are not always recognised in practice. Although there is no national civil union or relationships register scheme in Australia, most states and territories have legislated for civil unions or domestic partnership registries. Such unions are recognised as de facto relationships under federal law.

Prior to legalisation, 22 same-sex marriage related bills were introduced to Parliament between September 2004 and May 2017, none of which passed into law. These failed attempts came after the Howard Government amended the law in August 2004 to exclude same-sex marriages. The Australian Capital Territory passed a same-sex marriage law in December 2013, though this was struck down by the High Court on the grounds that such a law could only be introduced by the Commonwealth.

De facto relationships, defined in the federal Family Law Act 1975, are available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. De facto relationships provide couples who are living together on a genuine domestic basis with many of the same rights and benefits as married couples. Two people can become a de facto couple by entering into a registered relationship or by being assessed as such by the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. Couples who are living together are generally recognised as a de facto relationship and thus able to claim many of the rights and benefits of a married couple, even if they have not registered or officially documented their relationship.