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Rush to save gay marriage bill


Lisa Cox and Peter Jean

Simon Corbell acknowledges a standing ovation from the public gallery after introducing the Marriage Equality Bill in ...

Simon Corbell acknowledges a standing ovation from the public gallery after introducing the Marriage Equality Bill in the ACT Legislative of Assembly in September. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The ACT government has scrambled to amend its same-sex marriage bill in a last-minute bid to safeguard the historic law from being struck down by the High Court.

But marriage equality advocates were warning the government on Monday night that the bill was likely to be deemed unconstitutional unless further amendments were made.

The Legislative Assembly is expected to approve the law on Tuesday, making the ACT the first Australian jurisdiction to enact same-sex marriage.

OPPOSING THE BILL: (Back row) Rabbi Shimon Cowen; Bishop Trevor Edwards, vicar general of the Anglican Diocese of ...

OPPOSING THE BILL: (Back row) Rabbi Shimon Cowen; Bishop Trevor Edwards, vicar general of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn; Monsignor John Woods, administrator of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn; Pastor Sean Stanton, of Australian Christian Churches; and Rabbi Shmuel Feldman. (Front row) Pastor B.J. Hayes, of the Canberra National Adventist Church; Imam Adama Konda, of the Canberra Islamic Centre; and Arnold Cummins, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo: Jay Cronan

Mr Corbell announced 11th-hour amendments to the bill on Monday morning, before a midday cut-off.

The move was announced after Fairfax Media revealed constitutional law experts and interstate MPs who support marriage equality had highlighted flaws in the bill.

Mr Corbell insisted on Sunday that no changes were needed but, on Monday, he announced a series of amendments would be moved in response to legal advice from Australian Marriage Equality.

The advocacy group was urging further amendments to the bill late on Monday and had presented the government with legal advice from constitutional law experts Bret Walker, SC, and Perry Herzfeld.

They were hopeful the government would find a way on Tuesday, despite Mr Corbell refusing to budge on Monday night.

The advice said the government had not gone far enough in its amendments to create a separate status of marriage for same-sex couples to minimise the risk of inconsistency with the federal Marriage Act. The lawyers have suggested further changes, including a new title, for the bill and replacing references to ''marriage'' with the words ''same-sex marriage''.

Similar advice was provided by constitutional academic George Williams to the government on Monday afternoon.

Australian Marriage Equality director Rodney Croome said he was pleased the government was amending the bill but it had not gone far enough.

''According to the legal advice we have received, the current amendments don't go far enough to protect the ACT bill from being overturned by the High Court,'' Mr Croome said.

Professor Williams said ''the government has gone a long way but there are more things that they could do to give the laws the best chance of surviving in the High Court''.

''Probably the most significant thing they haven't done is set up a

new term for same-sex marriage,'' Professor Williams said.

He said the government had not gone ''the full way'' to adopting the approach taken by the Tasmanian and NSW same-sex marriage bills to minimise the risk of defeat in the High Court.

Mr Corbell said the amendments the government announced on Monday morning clarified that ''it is very clearly a bill about same-sex marriage''.

''Quite frankly, there'll be a range of factors that the High Court will look at,'' he said. ''This changes some issues around the title to clarify scope and ensure that it is very clearly a bill about same-sex marriage.

''Those amendments, the government on balance believes, will help us but they are not central to the arguments we will put to the court.''

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said the last-minute amendments had damaged Mr Corbell's credibility given he had ''consistently argued that the law he is proposing is constitutionally valid''.

The marriage equality bill has the backing of the eight Labor MLAs and single Greens MLA in the 17-member Legislative Assembly. All eight Liberal MLAs opposed the bill, arguing that marriage was a matter for the Federal Parliament.

Several Christian, Islamic and Jewish leaders on Monday combined to criticise the bill and urge the Assembly members to refer it to a committee for an inquiry. The eight religious leaders, including senior Anglican and Catholic clerics, said in a joint statement that they believed the bill could cause long-term risks to society.


  • Interesting group of religious leaders. Not a woman amongst them so they don't represent me or my community. Maybe they should reflect on the damage religion has done to society. Live and let live!

    Date and time
    October 22, 2013, 12:39AM
    • maybe they could reflect on all the good religion has done for society ,well maybe, you could.And not religions like the Church of Satan or Paganism but those religions hthat have based their instruction on the health and welfare ,education and security financially physically and spiritually of their communities.Wars and greed and hatred and spite and nastiness all existed long before religion ,and sadly those who proudly value their prejudices their envies and malice will ,and have only ever, feigned religious values in order to appear pious and gain the support of those they deceive.

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 9:46AM
    • So when Julia Gillard was PM she didnt represent me because she was a different gender to me?

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 10:27AM
  • Interesting pic of those opposing this bill - not a women or youth amongst them - how can you claim to want to impose your views on society when your little group hardly represents it? Diverse community spirit? I don't think so

    Date and time
    October 22, 2013, 7:23AM
    • No one is trying to impose their beliefs on society. All responsible in our society have a right to express their views strongly to politicians, as the same-sex marriage have been doing with almost vehemence at times. I'm bemused with the view that people with strong religious beliefs should never try to influence government policy.

      If governments were proposing a return to legalised slavery, child labour in appalling conditions and other social evils I suppose people with that view would object to religious leaders expressing their concerns.

      In any event, marriage is not a religious matter in our society. Marriages are civils unions, often "blessed" by church services of various kinds. Marriage law concerns all of us. All marriages are marriages legalised by Commonwealth law. It makes no difference to their legality if they are conducted in a church or in a registry office.

      David Morrison
      Blue Mountains
      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 8:53AM
    • Sounds like affirmative action is called for! Quick, find some people who don't have the time, inclination or skills and make them get in the photo.

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 9:11AM
  • I support equality of relationships, however, i do not support it, at the expense of any changes to traditional marriage.
    As the experts have pointed out above, there is no need for marriage to be redefined in any way to grant homosexuals equality. The ACT Government simply needs to follow the path set by NSW and Tasmania, and equality will be achieved. It would appear only one more adjustment is required. As Professor Williams pointed out, ''Probably the most significant thing they haven't done is set up a
    new term for same-sex marriage,'' Professor Williams said

    Date and time
    October 22, 2013, 7:27AM
    • +1

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 8:20AM
    • so simple!Why , a child could see .Course no profits in simpole soilutions lacking vigorous debates and the airing of voluminous dialogue.My goodness the legalised the Worship of Satan with less fuss, than letting two people live together as a couple with legal protection of their joint assetts.

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Here we go again. I wonder why this matter is of such importance. What are your motivations? The reason that a term other than marriage is not appropriate is that it could be used as a slight or a term of abuse. I guess that if you are straight you wouldn't understand the implications as you would not have had the indignity of abuse by mostly contrarians, conservatives or the insecure.

      Date and time
      October 22, 2013, 10:02AM

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