If a bad law is an unenforceable law, what can be said about a law that is ignored?
That is what is happening as a growing number of same sex couples find ways around Australia's marriage laws.
As of 10 May this year, more than two hundred couples have been married at British consulates around Australia.
The British diplomatic mission is the only mission offering this service, although Great Britain is not the only country that has legalised same sex marriage.
The decision to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies at the British consulates has cleared a path for same sex couples who can prove that one party is a citizen through heritage or by birth.
It's a limited option but with 1.2 million British citizens and countless dual citizens residing in Australia, it opens the doors to many.
High Commissioner Menna Rawlings told UniPollWatch the consulate was not trying to flout Australian laws: “It is not a ‘loophole’, nor a means of getting around Australian marriage laws. This is about us providing a much-valued service to British citizens that is their right under UK law.
“As well as being a service we provide, these marriages are wonderful, happy occasions. We all feel privileged to be part of them.”
Consulate ceremonies are simple and quick but they leave a lasting impression on couples who opt for them.
Nathaniel Ellis and Matthew Arthur were the seventeenth couple to be married under British law at the High Commission in Canberra, and could not be happier with the efforts made by all involved.
"We found our dealings with the British High Commission to be exceptionally well managed. They were absolutely great. Not only did they provide all the required information and advice to have our marriage … they treated us no differently to any other couple," the couple said by email.
British Vice Consul Stephen Northcott conducted the simple ceremony in the tearoom in front of close family and friends.
As a member of the wedding party, I found the experience deeply moving. I had never been to a wedding held in a tea room – and a very proper English one at that – but the surroundings were less important than the event itself which was, like a traditional ceremony, about two people in love committing themselves to each other.
As Northcott explained the ceremony, he took a moment to say how proud he felt being able to bring joy to couples by marrying them under British law. His sentiments prompted tears in the audience.
Nathaniel and Matthew had always planned on having a civil ceremony but this opportunity granted them the same choice given to straight couples.
"The feelings of love and commitment were always there, but to be finally recognised makes this all worthwhile," they said.
Unfortunately there’s still a large portion of couples who miss out. According to the 2011 census, there were around 33,700 same sex couples in Australia. From 2006 to 2011, the number of couples identifying as same sex increased by 32%. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says this trend could represent a growing social acceptance of same sex couples.
Public pressure about the issue pushed the Coalition government to pledge to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality, though the date for it has not been set yet. Senior figures in the government have pledged to abide by the result of the plebiscite when legislation is introduced, but some Coalition members have declared that they will not be bound the result. This uncertainty and the large cost of the plebiscite has led some to criticise the government's policy on the issue.
The Labor opposition under Bill Shorten has promised that if elected a Labor government would “legislate for marriage equality within the first 100 days of the next parliament”.
The Greens have also made it clear they’ll legislate for marriage equality as soon as possible if elected, or, more likely, if they have the numbers to influence votes in the Senate.
The continuing lack of options for Australian same sex couples has led some to travel to New Zealand, as it offers same sex marriages to everyone regardless of their citizenship. According to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, an estimated 300-plus Australian gay couples have chosen to get married on New Zealand soil since August 2013.