ACT Same-Sex Marriage Laws Shot Down by High Court of Australia, Gay Married Couples Face Annulment

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By Reissa Su | December 12, 2013 4:38 PM EST

The High Court of Australia has decided to strike down the same-sex marriage laws of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Dec. 12. The ACT Marriage Equality law was passed in October but only took effect in November. Same-sex couples who wanted to get married in Australia were required to provide four weeks' notice before the ceremonies.

As of Dec. 12, 20 same-sex couples have been married and recognised under the ACT's gay marriage laws with the first of the ceremonies held on Dec. 7.

Since the High Court had invalidated ACT's gay marriage laws, the decision had closed the door on the chances of similar legislation being passed across the country. A positive High Court decision would have pressured the Coalition government to legalise same-sex marriage.

The federal government had sought a High Court hearing to challenge the ACT's gay marriage law as inconsistent with federal laws.

According to the High Court, the federal government has the power to legalise same-sex marriage. The court said the matter of legalization is reserved for the federal parliament. The ACT's marriage equality laws "cannot operate concurrently with the federal Act."

Gay marriage supporters devastated

After learning about the High Court's decision, many supporters of same-sex marriage were devastated especially those who got married only recently. Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the High Court's ruling was only a "temporary defeat."

According to the Australian Christian Lobby, the ruling was in line with the uniformity of marriage laws in the country.

The debate continues

Hours after the High Court's decision, a bill recognising same-sex marriage was introduced in the Western Australian parliament. The bill was endorsed by Greens MP Lynn MacLaren. She said the bill "could survive a High Court" challenge.

According to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens also plans to introduce a same-sex marriage bill in federal parliament.

Married gay couples will have their unions annulled since they are no longer recognised under Australian laws.

Forty-six couples have registered in their eagerness to marry after the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has legalised gay marriage. Those who were married on Dec. 7 went ahead of a High Court decision as to whether or not to recognise gay marriage in Australia.

One of the first to tie the knot on the historic day was Western Australian Upper House MP Stephen Dawson. His marriage to his partner Dennis Liddelow was held on the Federal Parliament grounds in a midnight ceremony.

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