ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope has given further weight to the argument that same-sex marriage could be legislated for by states if the Federal Government failed to act.

Stanhope told the National Press Club today that a loophole in the amendment to the Marriage Act passed by the Howard government could allow states and territories to pass laws to allow gay marriage.

Stanhope had no plans to move to legalise same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital, but told the room, “Howard, in his determination to strengthen the barricades around the Marriage Act by amending it so it could only apply to a marriage between a man and a woman, may have actually made it easier for jurisdictions with an appetite to legislate for gay marriage.

“If the Commonwealth now explicitly legislates only in the area of marriage between a man and a woman, mightn’t it be open for a state or territory to legislate for like relationships that aren’t between a man and a woman?”

The Federal Government would have to resort to the courts if wanted to overturn state legislation.

Stanhope was speaking at the club about a Greens bill aimed at giving territories greater powers to make their own laws by restricting the federal veto power over territory legislation.

He told the audience that debate over the bill had been hijacked by conservative commentators who were focusing the discussion on euthanasia and gay marriage while ignoring territory rights.

Last year constitutional expert and University of NSW law professor George Williams wrote that states were not bound by the federal Marriage Act or other definitions of marriage in the Constitution and could pass their own laws for marriage between people of the same sex.

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