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Marriage bill may be doomed within days

Date

Ross Peake and Lisa Cox

Attorney-General Simon Corbell introducing the Marriage Equality Bill in the ACT Legislative of Assembly.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell introducing the Marriage Equality Bill in the ACT Legislative of Assembly. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The fate of the ACT's same-sex marriage bill could become clear as early as Thursday.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell will present information about the bill to a two-day meeting of federal, state and territory attorneys-general, amid speculation the federal government is about to challenge it.

''I will be placing the matter on the agenda and explaining why we believe the bill is valid,'' he said. ''I am not asking for any explicit agreement … I'm hopeful there will be an opportunity for an exchange of views to get a better understanding of the Commonwealth view on the matter.''

Mr Corbell said the ACT bill could operate concurrently with the federal legislation.

''Our argument has been consistent both in relation to civil unions and same-sex marriage that the Legislative Assembly can legislate for matters other than marriage as defined under the [federal] Marriage Act,'' he said.

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has already received legal advice the ACT's gay marriage laws are unconstitutional, according to one media report.

His office did not respond on the issue on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is considering whether the proposed law should be blocked as the Commonwealth has constitutional authority for marriage.

The Abbott government could challenge the ACT laws in the High Court or attempt to disallow it through votes in both houses of Parliament.

The ACT government's bill to permit same-sex marriage is expected to pass the 17-member Legislative Assembly this month with the support of all eight Labor members and Greens minister Shane Rattenbury.

The ACT government believes its bill could operate alongside the federal Marriage Act because the territory law would only apply to same-sex couples, not heterosexual relationships.

Mr Corbell said Senator Brandis would chair the meeting, the first gathering of attorneys-general since the federal election.

''My paper will simply outline what the bill is, what it does and that we believe it is valid,'' he said.

''It's not asking for a decision of the meeting except to note the paper.''

Mr Corbell said it was pre-emptive to be discussing High Court action.

''It still obviously hasn't been passed yet,'' he said. ''I wouldn't expect to see the [federal] legal advice … hopefully it will be an opportunity to get a bit more insight on the matter.

''The [ACT] bill is about recognising relationships other than those defined under the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

''Our argument is that our law is capable of concurrent operation because the Commonwealth Marriage Act is an exclusive scheme only for heterosexual couples and therefore schemes devised by the state and territories to recognise same-sex relationships are capable of concurrent operation alongside the Commonwealth Marriage Act.''

Former ACT chief minister Gary Humphries is questioning whether the ACT government can claim jurisdiction for same-sex marriage.

He said there appeared to be a reversal of the previous position taken by the territory.

Mr Humphries, who recently retired as Liberal senator for the ACT, said he did not believe there was a case for same-sex marriage, other than symbolism.

''I have doubts about whether the Legislative Assembly does have the capacity to pass legislation enacting same-sex marriage given that the argument in 2006 when the Assembly tried to do civil unions was that they had responsibility for arrangements other than marriage and the Commonwealth Parliament had responsibility for marriage,'' he said.

''So it seems to me that there's now a reversal of that situation and I'm not clear why that position seems to have changed, from the point of view of the Labor Party in the Assembly.''

In 2006, the Howard government used a ministerial order to rescind gay marriage laws in the ACT.

Mr Abbott would need majority votes in both houses of Parliament to veto the ACT bill after changes to the territories self-government law introduced in 2011 by then Greens leader Bob Brown.

The ALP policy allows a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, which would likely mean right-wing Labor senators would vote with the Coalition against the ACT bill.

62 comments

  • Canberra Times Wednesday 09/10/2013.The fate of the ACT's same-sex marriage bill could become clear as early as Thursday.
    Attorney-General Simon Corbell will present information about the bill to a two-day meeting of federal, state and territory attorneys-general, amid speculation the federal government is about to challenge it.
    Federal Attorney-General George Brandis has already received legal advice the ACT's gay marriage laws are unconstitutional, according to one media report.

    WOW, I'm flabbergasted, Mr 1909 votes is over the moon because 120 people attended the homosexual and lesbian Equal Love rally on Saturday but continues to use ACT taxpayers funds to pursue this persoal agenda of his colleague Mr Barr..
    Pales to insignificance when you consider the hundreds and well over a thousand that attended rallies, public meetings etc, not to mention the 8461 signature petition produced for the Canberra International Dragway construction or even the refurbishment of the old site that the then ACT Liberal government banished to the wilderness.
    ACT Green Labor and Liberal you are becoming a joke, wrong you are all a joke with your personal agenda's and outlandish polices, build the damn dragway, fix the roads, lower the rates, clean up the accident damage on every corner for a start as its your duty as nothing more than a municipal council.

    Commenter
    NITRO GANGSTER
    Date and time
    October 09, 2013, 7:48AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 8:50AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      MR
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 9:10AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Milo11
      Location
      ACt
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 9:28AM
    • Nah mate, your whole "dragway" schtick is the joke. It's not a very funny joke, but if you say it enough times people will start laughing. The last thing we need is more "chuck us a Jim Beam n' coke and show us your tits while I do burnouts with me pants off" encouragement. You've got Summernats, just enjoy that.

      This is actually an important bill that a majority of Australian citizens have voiced support for time and time again. It's the kind of thing that can change people's lives for the better. It's worth the time and effort to get it passed. If you're so bothered that it's taking up too much time, voice your support for it and help get it passed quickly. It's going to happen at some point. May as well be now. Then the assembly can move on to important matters like driving cars real fast.

      Commenter
      Meat Cat
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 9:28AM
    • Only 120 people may have attended the last Equal Love rally, but considering that was on a long weekend and many people had left Canberra, it probably wasn't too bad. Many more people have attended over the years they rallies have been running, a lot more have signed petitions in support, and even more (the majority of Canberrans I daresay) support the issue. And guess what? The majority voted for it at the last election.

      As for the ACT being just a municipal body? That is one of its functions, yes. But the argument by some people here that that's all it is is just flat out wrong. There a quite a number of areas that the Commonwealth does not have power to legislate in, or shares power with the States and Territories (marriage is the latter, by the way). Saying the ACT government is no more than a municipal body ignores that fact.

      Personally I'd love to see the State/Territory governments go and we have a more streamlined approach of Federal, and larger local governments with more responsibilities. Right now we have a constitution that gives us the system we have. It does calls upon the ACT government to have powers similar to States. If you don't like that lobby for a referendum to change the constitution.

      As for personal agendas? Both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens ran on a platform of marriage equality at the last election. Together they won enough support to form a minority government. There is no personal agenda. There is democracy. Maybe you should lobby the parties to go to the next election with a platform that includes building a dragway. That can be your personal agenda.

      Commenter
      Dylan
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 9:47AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Daniel
      Location
      Fedups-vilie
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 10:18AM
    • @Dylan..I think the Labor Government went to 3 elections with a platform to build a dragstrip. As for constitutional change, I would hope for abolishing State and Territory Governments, and having a Federal Government, and Councils.

      Commenter
      Martin Says
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 10:20AM
    • Meatcat I constantly hear the majority of Australian citizen have voiced their support time and time again. I have never been polled or asked.

      Commenter
      Nay Sayer
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 10:33AM
    • I tell you what Nitro, we are not going to cut down more trees and kill more wildlife just so you can have a stupid dragway!

      If we can't fly float planes on the lake then you can't have your dragway!

      You have summernats every 12 months, so get over it!

      Commenter
      Sharron
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 10:51AM

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