Australia’s High Court has acted to overturn legislation that allowed gay marriage in part of Australia. The Australian Capital Territory (including the capital of Canberra) had passed a bill in October which made it the first territory in legalize same-sex weddings.
However, this motion was challenged by the national government, who argued that it challenged federal law. The High Court made its verdict on Thursday stating: “The High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961.”
The ruling means that there was only a 5 day window in which same-sex marriage was possible in the area. During this period, 27 couples tied the knot. Couples that now face having their marriage revoked by the state. As deputy director of Australian Marriage Equality pointed out, the decision has “taken a toll on the couples who, in only days, have celebrated the heights of joy and love to only have their legal status quashed by technicalities.”
The outlook is not totally bleak, however, as campaigners believe that same-sex marriage could be deemed in line with the constitution if worded differently. Territories including New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australian and Western Australia, all have same-sex marriage laws drafted that are less likely to conflict with the Marriage Act. Furthermore, the High Court highlighted the fact that gay marriages would be constitutionally legal if it wasn’t for the one Act of 1961.
The move has also heightened pressure on the Government to make a nationwide move to vote on legalizing gay marriage. Four Liberal state premiers have all urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a vote on gay marriage. Premier of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell stated, “‘I’ve made clear all along that not only do I support marriage equality but I think it should be legislated for at a federal level.”