Same-sex marriage in Australia: ‘Just a temporary defeat’

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The High Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage in Australia has clarified that the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT’s) bill that legalized same-sex marriage in the ACT was inconsistent with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. This means that the 31 same-sex marriages that took place in the ACT are now legally void. In essence, the High Court said that the federal Marriage Act, which doesn’t permit same-sex marriage, takes precedence over the law passed by the legislative assembly in Canberra (ACT).

“This is devastating for those couples who married this week and for their families,” said Rodney Croome, the national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality. “However, this is just a temporary defeat.”

Australian gay rights activists said their fight would now shift to lobbying the national parliament to change federal legislation and momentum for this is already gathering. The ruling is significant in that it makes it clear that the Commonwealth does have the power to legislate on same-sex marriage in Australia.

The Liberal Party’s Malcolm Turnbull, the federal Minister for Communications, said he believes there is strong support for a conscience vote within federal parliament and that Australia is seen as falling behind comparable countries. The Deputy Labor leader, Tanya Plibersek, has reached across the party divide and called on Mr Turnbull to co-sponsor a marriage equality bill.

This new strategy to address marriage inequality on a federal level is one of a number of developments for LGBTI rights in the Asia-Pacific region. On the plus side there was the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Zealand in 2013. However, in stark contrast India’s top court ruled in December 2013 that sex between consenting homosexual partners is illegal in the country, prompting dismay from human rights groups. This change followed an amendment to surrogacy laws that also impacted negatively on same-sex couples, effectively stopping same-sex couples from accessing surrogacy services in India.

You can help achieve marriage equality in Australia by donating to Australian Marriage Equality. The video included here is a snapshot of one ceremony held in Australia between Clinton and Callum. This video is from SODA films.

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