A bill to allow same-sex marriages at a state level cleared its first hurdle in the Western Australia state Parliament on Tuesday with the Liberal Party’s President of the Legislative Chamber ruling not to withdraw the Same-Sex Marriage Bill introduced by Greens Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Lynn MacLaren late last year.
‘There is no provision that I can see in either this State’s constitutional arrangements or the Commonwealth Constitution which would prevent this House from considering the bill introduced by Hon Lynn MacLaren,’ Legislative Council President and Liberal MLC Barry House said.
MacLaren welcomed the move, and said she believed her bill could survive challenge in the courts in a way that the Australian Capital Territory’s same-sex marriage bill had not.
The Australian Capital Territory’s law was struck down by the High Court of Australia in December of last year – with the court finding it unconstitutional.
However Australian states have greater autonomy when it comes to passing their own laws and it remains to be seen if a state law would be ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.
‘[House’s] ruling means that the state can properly consider adopting same-sex marriage, if successful WA will become the first Australian state to pass same-sex marriage legislation that is better built to resist a High Court challenge,’ MacLaren said.
‘Shortly after I introduced my bill before the summer break it was requested by an opposing member that it be withdrawn on unsubstantiated grounds. Thankfully the President saw that my bill stands separate from any invalid arguments that proposed WA state marriage law cannot coincide with the Federal Marriage Act.
‘I have worked with constitutional lawyer George Williams and other stakeholders on the issue to ensure that this bill has the best chance of surviving. My fantastic team have ensured this state bill does not contravene with federal legislation.’
MacLaren said she looked forward to the Parliament debating her bill which seeks to allow same-sex couples to marry while the Australian Government refuses to act on the issue.
The Australian states deferred the responsibility for heterosexual marriage to the Australian Government in 1961 so even if a state law for same-sex marriage is passed there will not be complete equality until the Australian Government acts on the reform.
‘This is an exciting milestone for same-sex couples that want to feel like any other Australian family where marriage is an accessible symbol of lifelong commitment,’ MacLaren said.
‘I look forward to debating this bill and building cross party support on the issue.’