Australia's highest court struck down a landmark law on Thursday that had begun allowing the country's first gay marriages, meaning the unions of more than two dozen newlyweds will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.
Had the nation's top court upheld the Australian Capital Territory's (ACT) gay marriage legislation it would have opened the door to similar laws being passed across the country, pressuring the government to make it legal at a national level.
The government had argued that having different marriage laws in various Australian states and territories would create confusion. The ACT, which passed the law in October, said it should stand because it governs couples outside the federal definition of marriage as being between members of the opposite sex.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the national parliament – not state and territory authorities – had the ultimate say over marriage and whether it was extended to same-sex couples was a matter for lawmakers.
"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples," the court said.
"That act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage," it added.
"Under the constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament."
Rodney Croome, national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, told AP that his group knows of about 30 same-sex couples who have married since Saturday, though the actual number may be slightly higher. The ruling means their marriages are now nullified.
Same-sex couples can have civil unions or register their relationships in most states across Australia and have the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts, but the government does not consider them "married" under national law.
The ruling comes a day after India's Supreme Court struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalise homosexuality, dealing a blow to LGBT activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India's deeply conservative society.
Gay marriage has legal recognition in 18 countries as well as 16 US states plus the District of Columbia (D.C.).
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-12