Australia Gay Marriages May Be Short-Lived Pending Ruling
By Jason Scott - Dec 3, 2013 11:10 PM ET
Australia is set to hold its first legal same-sex marriage ceremonies on Dec. 7. Five days later, those unions may be invalidated by the nation’s top court.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government wants legislation passed by the Australian Capital Territory allowing same-sex marriages declared unconstitutional, and the High Court has reserved judgment on the matter until Dec. 12. Unless the government seeks an injunction, 47 ceremonies are scheduled in the five-day window, according to Rodney Croome, national director for lobby group Australian Marriage Equality.
Australia is lagging nations that have allowed gay marriage, including Canada, Brazil, France and South Africa. Photographer: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
“The couples are going into this with their eyes open, they know that there’s a risk their marriages will be overturned,” Croome said in a phone interview today. “When the marriages occur, Australians will see that this issue isn’t about the constitutions, laws or politics, but about love and commitment and joy.”
Australia is lagging nations that have allowed gay marriage, including Canada, Brazil, France and South Africa. Abbott, a Catholic whose sister is gay, has said the legislation passed by the territory contravenes the federal Commonwealth Marriage Act. While no other Australian state or territory allows such ceremonies, Tasmania recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
The Australian Capital Territory was surprised the federal government didn’t seek an injunction at the High Court yesterday to ensure marriages don’t take place before the Dec. 12 ruling, its Attorney-General Simon Corbell said in a phone interview today.
“What’s up for grabs with the High Court case is clarification on whether or not the states and territories can legislate on same-sex marriage, or whether it is a power that’s solely within the ambit of the federal parliament,” Corbell said. “This is an important social reform which our community wants to see progressed. Our preference would have been for the federal parliament to legislate on the question but it has failed to do so.”
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said in an e-mailed statement today it would be “inappropriate to comment as the matter is still before the court.”
The territory’s legislation may be a “tipping point” for a push for national same-sex marriage laws, Christine Forster, Abbott’s sister, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Canberra Times yesterday.
“We must convince our federal legislators in the political center and at least some of their more conservative colleagues that it has merit, that it’s supported by a clear majority of their constituents and that it deserves careful consideration,” Forster wrote.
The first ceremony is scheduled for one minute past midnight on Dec. 7 when the new law is in place, according to Croome.
The case is The Commonwealth of Australia v. The Australian Capital Territory. C13/2013. High Court of Australia (Canberra).
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at email@example.com