THE High Court has unanimously struck down the Australian Capital Territory’s same-sex marriage legislation after declaring it unconstitutional.
This means the 27 couples who wed in the ACT when the laws came into effect on December 7 will now have their marriages annulled.
The High Court ruled that the laws were inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act, which was a victory for the Abbott government, who had sought to appeal the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws that were passed in late October.
The court said any change to the Marriage Act must come from the Federal Government.
“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 stated in a summary of its judgement.
The news comes a just day after a federal cross-party working group on marriage equality including senators from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens was announced.
Yesterday, Liberal senator Sue Boyce, Labor senator Louise Pratt and the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young signed a pledge of co-operation forming the basis for the marriage equality working group, a move hailed by advocates as a significant step forward for marriage equality.
The court was expected to have made this decision early last week, however they held their deliberations until today.
This enabled scores of same-sex couples to get married last weekend – a first for Australia – as December 7 was the earliest day they could marry in the ACT under the same-sex marriage laws.