Federal Government to Challenge ACT Same-Sex Marriage Bill

This post was originally written for The Global Panorama, and has been uploaded here as part of a growing portfolio of work.

CANBERRA – The Federal Government is set to challenge the ACT’s recently introduced same sex marriage laws in the High Court of Australia, despite recent amendments to the controversial bill.

Federal Attorney General George Brandis’ spokesperson confirmed that the Government, led by conservative leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, would challenge the bill, which allows gay and lesbian couples to be legally married in the Australian Capital Territory.


Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The government, according to Senator Brandis’ office, has received a suggestion from the acting Commonwealth solicitor-general. They claim that the bill is invalid.

The ACT Legislative Assembly voted in favour of the bill, nine votes to eight. Just thirteen minutes after the bill was passed earlier this week, more than twenty five amendments were made to it, including re-naming it as the Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Act 2013, to “clarify that this is a law for same-sex marriage in the ACT,” and not interfere with the Federal Act.

The current act, originally created in 1961, says that marriage is “the union of a man and a women to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

Before 1961, Australia had no federal marriage act. Currently, marriage is a shared responsibly between both states and Territories and the Federal Government. However, Section 109 of the Federal Constitution states that when there is disagreement or inconsistency between the state and the Government, ”the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.’

The only problem for the government is that territories, such as the ACT, are exempt from that are of the Constitution, because when it was formed, they did not exist. This is the loop hole that the ACT is hanging on to, as it goes head to head with the Government in December.

Meanwhile, NSW Parliament had a debate over their own marriage laws today. Labor MP Penny Sharpe delivered a speech to Parliament, arguing that it, if passed, would end discrimination and make young people comfortable with their sexuality.

“There are still young people in this state who get up every day hoping that no one notices or no one asks if they are gay, a fag, a poof, a lezzo, a dyke or words much, much worse”, Ms Sharpe said today.

Many MPs argue, however, that it would create different laws of marriage right across the country, in a bad way. Many, such as Liberal MP Peter Phelps, also argue that the Act should be abolished completely, saying that governments have no power over love.

Christian Democrats MP, Fred Nile, says that the bill threatens the “sacred institution” of marriage between a man and a women.

Earlier this month, Tony Abbott’s lesbian sister, Christine Forster, announced that she would be marrying her partner Virginia Edwards in Canberra. Abbott says he will “do the right thing” and attend, but could never support their marriage.

The ACT bill follows a string of new laws around the world, with fifteen countries fully legalising same-sex marriages.

What do you think? Should states and territories be able to define marriage? Comment below, or continue the conversation via Twitter: @TGlobalPanorama @anthonysegaert7

Published November 4, 2013.

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