The Australian Capital Territory's (ACT) same-sex marriage law was struck down by the country's highest court on Thursday and the marriages that had taken place since it went into effect were annulled, the AP reports:
The federal government's lawyer had argued that having different marriage laws in various Australian states and territories would create confusion. The ACT, which passed the law in October, said it should stand because it governs couples outside the federal definition of marriage as being between members of the opposite sex.
The High Court unanimously ruled that the ACT's law could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act, which was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman," the court said in a statement issued alongside its ruling. "That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage."
Approximately 30 same-sex couples have married since Saturday.
In its decision, the court wrote that the federal government is responsible for deciding whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. The ruling means that no Australian state or territory can make that decision, said Sydney University constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said that Prime Minister Tony Abbott should now allow a conscience vote on same-sex marriages in the Federal Parliament. "Now is the time for a national debate on this issue as we witnessed the joy of those couples that have been married since Saturday, when the first weddings took place under the ACT Government’s law," Mr Corbell said…
…ACT Greens Member for Molonglo, Shane Rattenbury has called on the Federal Government to now legislate for an end to marriage discrimination after the High Court has ruled the ACT's Marriage Equality Bill unlawful. "Today's ruling from the High Court was about legal technicalities – it was not about the morality, the common sense or the human importance of ending marriage discrimination," said Mr Rattenbury.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the only way to guarantee marriage equality across Australia was to pass reform at a federal level.
Watch a Channel 4 report on the ruling, AFTER THE JUMP…