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Gay couples able to tick relationship as 'married'

Carlene Tolley and Gail Conman with their children Charlotte and Alexander.

Carlene Tolley and Gail Conman with their children Charlotte and Alexander. Photo: Angela Wylie

SAME-SEX couples were able to indicate a marriage for the first time in the 2011 census.

Across Australia, 1338 of 33,714 same-sex couples reported their relationship as being of husband or wife. In Victoria, there were 403 married same-sex couples and 8319 couples who reported their relationship as de facto.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the reason some couples report being married ''cannot be known from census data'', but may include being married overseas, registering their relationship under state law or feeling as though husband or wife best described their relationship.

Nunawading couple Gail Conman and Carlene Tolley recorded their relationship as de facto. ''I wouldn't identify as a wife or spouse unless I was legally able to be,'' Ms Conman explains. Ms Conman, 42, and Ms Tolley, 34, have been together for almost 10 years and have two children. Ms Conman said she and her partner had talked about registration of their relationship being irrelevant. ''It would not be legally recognised, therefore we won't do it,'' she said. ''We are oddly traditional despite our non-traditional lifestyle choice. We are quite keen to have a marriage ceremony if it's legal, but we're not having one that's not recognised.''

Ms Conman said she had a small number of friends in the gay community who had a committed relationship through joint mortgages or children, but had very few friends who had ''gone to the effort of any kind of ceremony''.

Before the last census, all same-sex couples were classified as de facto partners, regardless of their description on the census form.

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