THE HIGH Court of Australia upheld marriage between a man and a woman last week, ruling unanimously that the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws were inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act, and consequently unconstitutional.
The decision that the entirety of the ACT law “is of no effect” was made on December 12, almost two months after the legislation was initially passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly by a margin of just one vote.
The marriages of about 30 same-sex couples who wed after December 7, the date the legislation came into effect, are now invalid.
At the time of the passing of the ACT laws, Federal Attorney-General George Brandis urged the Territory government to wait for the outcome of the High Court challenge before allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot. The ACT government refused.
A statement outlining its decision said: “The Court held that the Federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same-sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and Federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the Federal Parliament.
“The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same-sex couple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia,” it continued.
“Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same-sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect.”
Director of Catholic Marriage and Fertility Services for the Perth Archdiocese Derek Boylen told The Record the High Court’s decision was an important one to be made.
“Traditionally, marriage has always been a union, freely entered into between one man and one woman for life,” he said.
“That’s the traditional understanding of marriage. It wasn’t the Australian government that gave marriage this definition.
“However, it is good to see this traditional understanding of marriage being upheld within our legislation.”
While he said he understood the disappointment of same-sex couples, Mr Boylen added there were wider considerations to keep in mind.
“Redefining marriage has potential consequences which have not been adequately explored in our community,” he said.
“Not just for couples but for children too.”
The Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton welcomed the High Court’s decision.
“This ruling shows it is not the jurisdiction of states to legislate in regards to marriage,” he said.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is good for society and beneficial for governments to uphold in legislation. It’s about providing a future for the next generation where they can be raised by their biological parents, wherever possible.”
Mr Shelton said the same-sex marriage issue has been debated enough and attention should now move to other areas.
“The debate about changing the definition of marriage has been given a fair go for the past three years with nine parliamentary attempts to change it,” he said.
“Like the republican debate, the public and parliamentarians have had plenty of time to evaluate it and it is now time to move on.”
Several politicians have now renewed calls for a national referendum to be held on the issue.