Former Liberal ACT chief minister Kate Carnell says same-sex marriage should be legalised because most Australians believe gay couples are entitled to equal rights and happiness.
Speaking ahead of a vote on same-sex marriage legislation in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Ms Carnell said it would be disappointing if the new laws were overturned in a High Court challenge by the Abbott government.
"The majority of Australians now accept same-sex [attracted] people have a right to be happy and to live their lives the way they want to and if they choose to get married, they should be able to do so," she told ABC radio.
"So it is something that needs to happen."
The beyondblue chief executive said that if federal Attorney-General George Brandis wanted a nationwide approach to marriage, the government would therefore have to challenge any state that brought forward its own same-sex legislation.
"In this case, I don’t think it’s a territory rights issue. The approach that George Brandis has taken seems to be more about having a national approach to marriage rather than an issue of states and territories," she said.
"If it were a territory rights issue, I would be even more dramatic about it. The ACT certainly should be treated the same as all other states."
Ms Carnell, who was chief minister from 1995-2000, said she expected a push for a conscience vote in the Liberal Party.
"I don’t think it’s far away in that all major parties will take the view that this is a conscience issue, not a policy issue. I certainly hope that is what happens."