In a major setback for the push for state-based marriage equality, the federal government has confirmed that it will mount a challenge against the ACT’s same-sex marriage bill in the High Court as soon as it is enacted.
Speaking from Canberra this afternoon, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell (pictured) confirmed to reporters that he and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher were informed of the government’s intent last night by federal Attorney-General George Brandis.
The ACT Parliament is expected to pass a bill legalising same-sex marriage in the territory within days, but a High Court challenge from the federal government could quickly see the law invalidated and any further attempts to pass same-sex marriage laws at a state level rendered moot.
The government will likely challenge the bill on the grounds that the exclusive right to legislate in matters of marriage belongs to the federal parliament, as outlined in the Constitution. If the High Court agrees with the government’s inerpretation, the decision will set a precedent that could severely undermine efforts to push for marriage equality through various state Parliaments.
While marriage equality advocates have previously expressed confidence that any state or territory-based same-sex marriage law could survive a legal challenge, the ACT has seen similar legislation defeated before; in 2006 the ACT Civil Unions Bill 2006 was successfully challenged by then-Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.