Alastair Lawrie is a Sydney-based writer and long-term LGBTI activist. He has been involved with both the Victorian and New South Wales Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobbies.
AS EXPECTED, THE HIGH Court today overruled the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws. This means that the much-publicised marriages of couples who had used the five-day window of opportunity in Canberra, starting last Friday night at midnight, will now be annulled.
The Court also unanimously decided that same-sex marriage can only be legalised by Federal Parliament.
It appears that amendments made in 2004 to the Commonwealth Marriage Act, which were passed by the Howard Liberal-National Government and supported by the Labor opposition, mean that unless the Act is changed, the only marriages considered lawful in Australia are those between a man and a woman.
There is, however, some good news: the Court has found that the reference to marriage in section 51 (xxi) of the constitution includes same-sex marriage. This means that when the Federal Parliament eventually passes marriage equality, same-sex marriages will not be threatened by a subsequent legal challenge.
The outcome of all this is that the spotlight is firmly back on the only people who can make marriage equality a reality in Australia: the 226 members of Federal Parliament. If the thousands of same-sex couples around Australia waiting to tie the knot are finally to be granted their wish, it is up to Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten and their colleagues to make it happen.
It should also be remembered that the ACT same-sex marriage laws were never truly equal. Not only did they seek to create a new class of marriage for same-sex couples, they also excluded marriages which involved transgender and intersex people. State and Territory Marriage Acts were never going to achieve full equality.
One more thing the ACT ‘experiment’ proved is that allowing two people who love each other to get married will not cause the sky to fall, and has no impact whatsoever on the marriages of other people. And for the benefit of Senator Bernardi, it appears no cats or dogs were interfered with, either.
While this was the result I always expected, it still feels like a kick in the guts. My fiancé Steven and I, already engaged for almost four years, will have to wait longer still. I can only imagine how much worse those couples who did marry must be feeling. From wedded bliss to legal rejection in a matter of days. My heart goes out to them.
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