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Chance for same-sex marriages after High Court reserves decision

Date

Lisa Cox and Michael Inman

Outside the court before proceedings started. Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh, National Director of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome (at the microphone), Donna Goddard, national spokesperson for PFLAG and lawyer, Anna Brown.

Outside the court before proceedings started. Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh, National Director of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome (at the microphone), Donna Goddard, national spokesperson for PFLAG and lawyer, Anna Brown. Photo: Graham Tidy

The ACT will host the first same-sex marriages in Australia this weekend, after the High Court reserved, until December 12, its decision in the Commonwealth's challenge to the territory laws.

In court on Tuesday the Commonwealth Solicitor-General argued that the federal government has sole power when it comes to marriage. The Abbott government has not sought an injunction to prevent marriages from taking place, giving couples a five-day window to wed before a decision is published as to whether or not to overturn the law.

Alan Wright and Joel Player are now planning their wedding for this weekend.

Alan Wright and Joel Player are now planning their wedding for this weekend. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

When contacted on Tuesday a spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis declined to comment.

Senator Brandis has repeatedly refused to comment while the matter is before the court but in October called on the ACT government to stop the laws from taking effect until their constitutional validity was determined.

Are you or some of your loved ones having a same-sex marriage soon? Let us know at online@canberratimes.com.au

Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh arriving at the High Court on Tuesday.

Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh arriving at the High Court on Tuesday. Photo: Graham Tidy

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said couples would be able to get married this weekend at least.

Forty-seven couples are registered to marry in the ACT and Fairfax Media is aware of at least 12 same-sex weddings that will take place in Canberra this weekend.

"No injunction has been sought so that means the laws are operational this weekend," Mr Corbell said.

"Couples who have given their notice can get married this weekend, albeit with the uncertainty surrounding this case yet to be resolved."

Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome said that in "all probability we have a five-day window in which same sex couples will marry on Australian soil for the first time".

"All of those Australians that support marriage equality will be overjoyed that finally in this country we will see same-sex couples marrying," he said.

"We will see the love and commitment these couples share … All the nation will see that just because they're marrying the sky won't fall in."

Mr Corbell said that the 47 couples that had already given at least a month's notice of their intention to marry, as required under the law, "clearly demonstrates same-sex couples and their families are yearning to declare their commitment in a marriage ceremony and the ACT law will provide that opportunity". "Everything about this case has been unexpected and I won't be entirely comfortable until we hear the decision," he said. "I am pleased couples will have the opportunity to marry this weekend even with the case pending and the uncertainty.

"Same-sex couples understand these ceremonies aren't without some doubt but I know they will embrace the opportunity to marry under the ACT law this weekend."

Alan Wright and Joel Player plan to become the first same sex couple to marry in Australia, at 12.01am on Saturday.

"We are definitely going ahead," Mr Wright said.

"I personally feel that it's going to send a strong message to everyone.

"I think it's important for us to show that Australia really needs this.

"For marriage equality around Australia we need to show that couples can't marry under Commonwealth laws at the moment."

Michelle Stockwell and Annabel Scholes also plan to marry on Saturday.

Their celebrant, Jody Aulich, said she had nine weddings booked in for Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning.

"I am going to be very busy this weekend," Ms Aulich said.

"This is fabulous news.

"I really didn't think there would be a window of opportunity."

Ms Aulich said she had other couples who had given her notice.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised that if they have given sufficient notice that they start to contact me to get married in this period."

Ivan Hinton will also marry his partner Christ Teoh in the Rose Garden at Old Parliament House on Saturday, followed by a reception at Black Mountain Tower.

Mr Hinton, who is also the deputy director of Australian Marriage Equality, has been married to Mr Teoh under Canadian law for five years.

But the couple have been part of a decade-long fight to marry in front of family and friends at home.

"I'm delighted to say I'm going to be getting married," he said.

"All today [Tuesday] I've been in a state of terror at the idea that my relationship and the relationships of thousands of Australians are potentially going to be decided in this process."

Mr Hinton said couples that married in the five-day window would be fearful their marriages could be invalidated, but that was a risk they understood.

The landmark case before the full High Court bench is expected to decide whether or not the ACT has enacted a law that is in conflict with the federal marriage act and the federal family law act.

The case is the first real test of whether or not states and territories can legislate for same-sex marriage.

Senator Brandis has repeatedly refused to comment in the lead-up to the hearing, but has previously described the ACT's law as a "threat" to the "well-established position" that marriage laws should be nationally uniform.

The Abbott government acted swiftly to strike down the ACT law and mounted its challenge immediately after the Legislative Assembly passed the same-sex marriage bill in October.

The ACT government faced criticism of its bill, which advocates and constitutional law experts claimed had been drafted too quickly and did not go far enough to create a separate status of same-sex marriage to limit the chance it would be overturned by the High Court.

But the ACT government has backed its bill as being constitutionally sound and capable of concurrent operation with federal marriage laws.

Mr Corbell said the government was apprehensive about the hearing but was confident it had "strong arguments to put to the court".

139 comments

  • I know it will get turned around, and the decision wont stick, but at least there is some progress. And this gives me a little but of hope for this country in a week of head shaking at politicians.

    Commenter
    demonwiththeangelicface
    Date and time
    December 03, 2013, 5:22PM
    • Absolutely amazing! Apart from all the negative news these days at least there is positive news out there. This is a great step towards ending discrimination and recognizing peoples human rights. Great times!

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 5:48PM
    • just like everything with this government, hear one thing one day and then another the next. Yet another broken promise from abbott - there will be no gay marriages under a government I lead

      Commenter
      harry
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 5:49PM
    • There is no justification for any same sex 'marriages' in Australia. What a blatant lie by the ACT to pretend that this is in any way constitutionally sound. The majority of Australians view any change to marriage between a man and a woman as a travesty of justice when they had their say in the matter by voting in Tony Abbott and the coalition. Tony won the marriage debate fair and square. Represent the views of the voters not your selfish agendas ACT. Same sex 'marraiages' should definitely not take place in Australia at all.

      Commenter
      Carolyn
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:31PM
    • When ACT Labor/Greens govt eventually loses this case, hope the High Court rewards costs and forces the ACT Labor/Greens to pay for this fiasco.

      Commenter
      Regh
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:37PM
    • 'I know it will get turned around, and the decision wont stick...'

      I think you might be right but it's most difficult to second-guess High Court decisions, evidenced by, for instance, Mabo and the implied rights decisions.

      Who would've ever anticipated the overturning of terra nullius - a decision which saw the Tories beside themselves, predicting all manner of shocking outcomes.

      For a while there I thought High Court building was going to be breached.

      Commenter
      Jason of Gold Coast
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:44PM
    • @Carolyn - a little something about consenting adults..

      Commenter
      Ian
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:52PM
    • @ Carolyn:

      I love it when you're in ironic mode.

      Commenter
      Jason of Gold Coast
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:54PM
    • Freedom of choice
      Is what you got
      Freedom from choice
      Is what you want
      (repeat)

      Commenter
      Ian
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 6:59PM
    • "The majority of Australians view any change to marriage between a man and a woman as a travesty of justice when they had their say in the matter by voting in Tony Abbott and the coalition.". Uh, I thought they voted because of the Carbon Tax, or was it 'illegals'? The actuality is that the Libs are far from united on this subject: Malcolm Turnbull has spoken out passionately in favour of allowing SSM and Kevin Rudd's opponent in Griffith, Bill Glasson, who may be its member in a few months campaigned on the basis that unlike Rudd he had always supported SSM legalisation.

      Commenter
      TonyB
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 7:21PM

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