Australia: LGBT community faces off with govt over ACT marriage lawBy Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon Oct 24, 2013 7:33PM UTC
Gays and lesbians cannot wait to tie the knot in Canberra following the passage of a marriage equality bill last Tuesday.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly passed the historic Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Bill 2013 —the first state is Australia to legalize same sex marriage.
Euphoria engulfed the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex) community but this was cut short when the Tony Abbott Government lodged a High Court challenge within 24 hours saying the ACT law is not consistent with the Commonwealth marriage law.
The Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 establishes the sole and exclusive means under Australian law by which the status of marriage may be attained. Family Law Act 1975, likewise, makes provisions for divorce, child custody, and property arrangement. The ACT law does not meet such provisions.
The Commonwealth government has lodged a writ of summons in the High Court Wednesday. The High Court will hold its first reading on Friday.
The ACT Government is determined to defend the new law. Members of the GLTBI community also stand hand in hand and are optimistic the ACT bill will survive the challenge.
Lobby group Australian Marriage Equality has published a dedicated page for gays and lesbians who would like to take the opportunity to be amongst the first to tie the knot.
Abbott earlier warned not to rush until the validity of the law is determined as the writ also states “There would be immediate adverse effects for persons whose marriages would be ineffective if the ACT Marriage Act is found invalid” and “The status of marriage has a weight and a significance beyond its legal consequences.”
Abbott said he views the ACT same-sex marriage laws as a constitutional matter, not a moral issue. Advising same-sex couples wishing to marry in the ACT to wait until a High Court challenge is resolved, Abbott said the federal government had constitutional responsibility for marriage.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell introduced a raft of 11th hour amendments to the Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Bill 2013 in order to bolster its chances of surviving a High Court challenge. The amendments are aimed at fending off the High Court challenge by minimising any inconsistencies with commonwealth legislation.
The bill is supported by Greens (Member of Legislative Assembly) MLA Shane Rattenbury and all eight Labor MLAs.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has hoped same-sex couples will be able to marry in Canberra before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the New South Wales Legislative Council is now planning to introduce a similar bill. AME, on its website, said the “NSW Cross Party Marriage Equality Working Group consisting of Liberal, National, Greens, Labor and Independent Members have announced plans to introduce legislation into the NSW Legislative Council next week that seeks to allow same-sex couples to marry in NSW.”