12 Dec 2013

Gay marriage law reversed by Australian high court

A week after same-sex marriage was made legal in Canberra, around 30 gay couples will now have their marriages annulled after Australia’s high court overturns the ruling.

Australia’s highest court has repealed a law that had begun to allow the country’s first gay marriages. Around 30 same-sex couples tied the knot in the week since the law was passed – and their marriages have now been officially annulled.

“This is personally devastating,” said Ivan Hinton, who married his partner Chris Teoh on Saturday. “In less than a week we’ve been married and we’ve been unmarried, at least on a legal level.”

The federal government had challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) law that had allowed gay marriages in the nation’s capital, Canberra, and its surrounding area starting last Saturday.

In less than a week we’ve been married and we’ve been unmarried, at least on a legal level – Ivan Hinton

The High Court unanimously ruled that the ACT’s law could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act, which was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Green Party, said: “So, it is a set-back, (a) legislative set back. It’s devastating for the people concerned and for their families and friends but it is also a clarion call for everyone around the country who supports marriage equality to now put the pressure on the federal government and the federal parliament to change it.” (see video above)

‘We’re quite devastated’

Rodney Croom, director of Australian marriage equality, remained defiant. He said: “For the first time ever same-sex couples have married on Australian soil. That has been a huge step forward and one from which there is no return. The High Court today has given us a clear path forward.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott opposes gay marriage and his coalition blocked two federal bills last year that would have allowed legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.

Glenda Lloyd said, who had married her partner since the law was passed, said: “We’re very disappointed. We’re quite devastated. Obviously we knew that this was a possibility but it was still quite sad to sit in the court and hear that judgement.”

The ruling comes a day after India’s Supreme Court struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalise homosexuality, dealing a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society.