HEARTBROKEN after the High Court annulled their marriages late last week, couples who took part in Australia’s first-ever legally recognised same-sex weddings in the ACT have nonetheless said there was plenty to be positive about following the five days in which gay marriage was a reality in the country.
Attention has now turned to the federal arena with growing moves within the Coalition government to allow for a conscience vote on the issue after deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and the Greens indicated they would introduce marriage equality bills during the current term of parliament.
The WA Greens also announced they will attempt to push for state-based same-sex marriage laws with their own bill.
The High Court last Thursday ruled the ACT government’s recently-enacted
same-sex marriage legislation were inconsistent with the federal Marriage Act and therefore constitutionally invalid.
Among those in the courtroom on the day included Canberra resident Alan Player (né Wright), who was one of the first to marry, and Australian Marriage Equality deputy director Ivan Hinton- Teoh, who had also married his partner (pictured, bottom right).
Player, who married partner Joel (pictured bottom left) soon after the marriage laws came into effect at midnight on December 7, told the Star Observer there were plenty of devastated faces in the court.
“The gravity of what was handed down didn’t hit until we got out of the courtroom,” he said this week.
“I’m still disappointed that my marriage has been annulled but it’s a positive step forward.
“When I got back to work after the High Court ruling, all my work colleagues said… ‘you’re still married.’ Same with our families, we’re married
in their eyes. My father-in-law rang me to tell me he was proud about what we had done. It has been overwhelming the support and love we have got.”
Meanwhile, Hinton-Teoh said that while he was devastated his marriage was annulled, AME would continue to work on reforms for marriage equality after the High Court made it clear federal parliament could create national laws without the need for a referendum.
“We’ve got a new federal cross-party working group just announced… There is movement happening all over the place,” he said.
“We didn’t even know until the High Court ruling whether or not marriage is defined by the constitution in 1901, in its common meaning from 1901 – or whether it is a dynamic institution that can be interpreted and modified according to social mores. The High Court clarified that for us and I think it is a great blow to opponents who had been trying to say that not even
the Federal Government has the ability to change the way marriage is defined.”
This week, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull attracted the ire of South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi after Turnbull pushed for the Coalition to be given a conscience vote on future marriage equality bills, saying Australia was “out of step” with cultural neighbours like New Zealand, the UK and Canada.
“If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about fringe issues outside party policy, he should resign from the frontbench,” Bernardi told the ABC.
Abbott said he didn’t expect any marriage equality bills to come up before parliament any time soon.
“When legislation came before the last parliament it was fairly decisively dealt with,” he said.
“But if legislation comes before the parliament, it will be considered by our party room in the usual way.”