Same-sex marriage would stand up against a High Court challenge if it was legalised, law academics have told a Senate inquiry into marriage in Melbourne today.
The panel of senators heard from groups in support of and opposed to the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.
Lawyers and academics from the Deakin University School of Law and the University of Adelaide Law School made submissions to the inquiry and told the committee they believed that marriage equality was constitutional.
In Sydney yesterday, the Senate committee heard from a group called Lawyers for the Preservation of the Definition of Marriage that the federal Government did not have the constitutional power to legalise same-sex marriage.
Associate Professor of Law Dr Dan Meagher backed the submission from Deakin University and appeared before today’s committee in Melbourne.
He told the Star Observer he believed same-sex marriage would not be repealed by the current Australian High Court if legalised.
“I think the clear trend on not just this High Court but on existing High Court authority would suggest that if the Commonwealth Parliament legislated to make lawful same-sex marriage, I think it would withstand constitutional scrutiny,” he said.
Meagher said the Constitution allowed the federal Government to create laws around marriage and so it would also allow the federal Government to make amendments to marriage laws.
He said there were a number of comments by High Court judges to lead him to believe they would deem same-sex marriage constitutional.
In the inquiry, Liberal senator Eric Abetz questioned whether this would allow for future attempts to legalise other types of relationships such as bigamy.
Meagher refuted this and said he believed this wouldn’t happen.
“The chances of a groundswell of the Australian public being so strong that they would legislate for bigamy, I think is fanciful,” he said.
From a constitutional point, Meagher said the High Court had made it clear that the institution of marriage was “a voluntary union between two persons to the exclusion of others”.
Meagher said he hoped the Marriage Equality Amendment bill passed.
“It is also important from a constitutional issue because it is a recognition the Australian people recognise the legitimacy … of same-sex couples getting married,” he said.
In a press conference today, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she found the submissions from Deakin University and the University of Adelaide very encouraging.
“One of the questions about, whenever you take on a big reform like this, is wanting to make sure it can stand the test of time,” she said.
“There is overwhelming support from the Australian community for this reform to happen.
“If this bill is to pass, we could remove discrimination. We could give same-sex couples equality under the law but at the same time, of course religious organisations could still choose, as they do today, who they would like to marry and who they wouldn’t like to marry.”