Debate has begun on the Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill 2013 in the ACT Parliament, with Opposition and Greens Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) speaking on the bill ahead of an impending vote.

Territory Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson has spoken out against the bill, saying that the bill’s likelihood of being challenged by the federal government in the High Court made it unsuitable for the ACT Parliament to act.

“This is not a responsible thing for this Parliament to be doing…It’s clear that this legislation will pass today and when it does, [ACT Chief Minister] Katy Gallagher and [ACT Attorney-General] Simon Corbell will take ownership of the consequences.”

“I acknowledge and respect the views of LGBTI people. There are a diverse range of views regarding same-sex marriage within the Opposition. This assembly is not the correct place for the debate. The Canberra Liberals do not support the bill.”

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, whose deciding vote will see the bill pass, said the bill was the culmination of years of struggle on the part of LGBTI rights activists.

“Denying equal marriage rights to same-sex couples is an affront to human rights. Today the ACT puts an end to this form of discrimination…we are a place that cares about people, equality and fairness. To all people who have waited years for this day – congratulations.”

Rattenbury attacked the Liberals’ opposition and called on pro-gay marriage Liberal MLAs to cross the floor.

“It seems like an excuse to avoid addressing the issue at hand. In some ways I have more respect for those who openly oppose marriage equality than those who hide behind jurisdiction. Let members have the spine to put on the record whether they support marriage equality or not.

“The Abbott government does not support marriage equality. They are intervening where intervention is not necessary…if the High Court upholds the Abbott government’s challenge, then the ACT will review the bill and try again.

“Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy getting married.”

Prominent LGBTI activists and pro-marriage equality politicians watched from the public gallery, including Greens leader Christine Milne and independent Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich.

Stay tuned for updates.

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