The High Court of Australia has ruled that same-sex marriage legislation in the ACT cannot operate in conjunction with the federal marriage legislation.
To quote the High Court:
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 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 Court held that “marriage” in s 51(xxi) of 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 recognises 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” in s 51(xxi) includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.
I’ll pull this apart in a few ways that will end in this point: today’s high court ruling is good news for marriage equality.
“The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage” tells me that same-sex marriage, and marriage equality is a national concern, not to be localised to certain towns, states or districts.
The constitution even has marriage equality’s back “marriage in s 51(xxi) of the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons”.
The High Court has decided that “Marriage” includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.
The problem at the moment is that the Marriage Act of 1961 “does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples”.
The other ruling the High Court could have made today was that same-sex marriage was in fact different to marriage. This sounds like a win, but it’s a fox in sheep’s clothing. A ruling for the 2013 same-sex marriage legislation in the ACT would have been a win for same-sex marriage but a slap in the face for marriage equality.
Today’s ruling is just one more positive step on the journey to marriage equality, and I hope and pray that the Australian federal parliament would cease the discrimination soon, and change the Marriage Act to represent relationships between two people, exclusive of their gender.
Same-sex relationships deserve to be celebrated. Today’s high court ruling is good news for marriage equality.
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