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Australian High Court strikes down first legal gay marriages

Australian High Court strikes down first legal gay marriages

Australia’s High Court has found the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) same-sex marriage law to be inconsistent with Australia’s national Marriage Act and thus struck it down.

The High Court made its verdict on the legality of the first same-sex marriages in Australia known earlier today.

‘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 justices wrote in a summary of their judgement.

However campaigners for marriage equality are pleased that the court found that same-sex marriages would be constitutionally legal marriages if not for the ban on same-sex marriage in the Marriage Act.

‘The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament,’ the justices wrote.

‘The Court held that "marriage" in … the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons in accordance with legally prescribed requirements which is not only a union the law recognizes as intended to endure and be terminable only in accordance with law but also a union to which the law accords a status affecting and defining mutual rights and obligations. "Marriage" … includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.’

Only 27 couples were able to marry in the brief 5 day window provided by the court.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) deputy director Ivan Hinton and husband Chris Teoh were one of those couples and earlier today Hinton told GSN he had been ‘gutted’ by the court’s decision.

‘It 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,’ Hinton said.

‘I love Chris with all my heart and the High Court decision does nothing for our very public commitments we have made. To us, to my family and community we are very married.’

However Hinton was still hopeful the court would find a state-level same-sex marriage law to be legal if it was worded differently than the ACT law.

‘The High Court has left the door open for state-based same-sex marriage laws as they are drafted in New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia,’ Hinton said.

‘This should give us, amongst thousands of Australians looking for dignity and inclusion hope that the fight goes on.’

The news comes just a day after a cross-party working group on same-sex marriage was launched in the Australian Parliament, which includes senators from all of the Parliament’s main political factions.