Australia: First same-sex marriages held in ACT despite High Court challenge to equal marriage law

Aaron Day December 8, 2013
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Australia’s first same-sex marriage ceremonies were celebrated on Saturday irrespective of a High Court challenge to the Australian Capital Territory’s equal marriage law.

At midnight, several couples – including Labor politician Stephen Dawson – tied the knot in the national capital Canberra.

On Thursday, Mr Dawson said: “We believe that we are in a privileged position and that we should take the opportunity to shine a light on the issue and to hopefully encourage governments, particularly the federal government, on this issue.”

Although the ACT legislation came into effect in October, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned anyone planning to marry to wait until the constitutional challenge against the law is resolved.  

Despite having a gay sibling Mr Abbott continues to oppose equal marriage and has supported efforts to halt the ACT’s equal marriage law in the courts.

“Regardless of what happens in the High Court, the significance of this moment will remain and send a strong signal about what a contemporary 21st-century Australia should look like,” ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said.

Ivan Hinton, who married his partner of 11 years Chris Teoh on Saturday, told AFP: “I understand that the High Court is an issue and we will deal with that on Thursday but it can’t overshadow that Chris and I woke up this morning knowing that our community respects us for who we are, has the same respect for our relationship and has the same hopes as we do for our future.

“What happens on Thursday and further on in the pursuit of marriage equality really comes second to that experience.”

In October, Christine Forster, the sister of Mr Abbott, revealed that she had proposed to her partner Virginia Edwards.

In the same month, Mr Abbott said that the ACT court challenge was about upholding the Australian constitution and about preserving a “uniform approach throughout the commonwealth” to marriage laws.

Previously, Australian Greens Senator Hanson-Young warned Mr Abbott not to overturn the law if passed, due to the vast amount of public support.

Prior to taking effect, several amendments were made to the ACT’s bill in order to safeguard its legal passage. 

Same-sex couples living in the ACT have been permitted to register their partnerships since 2008 as well as hold civil partnership ceremonies since 2009, when the ACT became the first territory in Australia to introduce such legislation.

However, equal marriage continues to be banned in Australia at a federal level despite efforts to legalise the measure failed in the Australian Parliament in September 2012.

Related topics: Australia, Civil partnerships, equal marriage, gay marriage, gay wedding, lesbian marriage, lesbian wedding, marriage, marriage equality, same sex marriage, Same-sex wedding, wedding

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