Australian Capital Territory passes same-sex marriage legislation

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On October 22, Australian legislators of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriage. The law passed with a 9-8 vote, and reports suggest that gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry by the end of 2013. 

The ACT is the smallest self-governing internal territory in Australia. The only city within the territory is Canberra, the capital city of Australia.

“Today’s vote in the ACT is a day many Australians have waited for,” deputy director of Australian Marriage Equality Ivan Hinton said, according to the Washington Blade. “Historically, the ACT has said loving and committed same-sex couples deserve and will now have the right to get married.”

Many Australian states allow same-sex unions, but this is the first Australian territory to recognize same-sex marriage. However, since marriage laws are legislated on a federal level, the government could still decide to put an end to the new legislation. 

“I am sorry that the Commonwealth threat hangs over this law, but couples who marry will do so with their eyes open to the action that the Commonwealth is taking,” Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said, as reported by the Huffington Post. 

“We understand this creates some uncertainty ahead, but that should not deter us; it does not rattle us and it doesn’t change our path,” she added.

The Marriage Equality Act allows for people living in the Capital Territory, or those who wish to travel there, to wed. 

National Attorney General George Brandis suggests that the Marriage Equality Act is contradictory to federal laws which ban same-sex marriage. 

Brandis plans to challenge the law in Australia’s High Court. 

However, the ACT remains confident that the new legislation is solid. 

“We are simply legislating to improve outdated, inhumane laws,” Gallagher explained. 

Those who oppose same-sex marriage in Australia do so primarily for religious reasons. But Gallagher doesn’t believe that the Marriage Equality Act will interfere with anyone’s personal beliefs. 

“If we are to be judged by a higher being on this law then let it be so,” said Gallagher. 

The current opposition leader of ACT, Jeremy Hanson does not believe that ACT has the power to persuade the federal government. 

“We do not see the ACT Assembly as a vehicle to drive national agendas on social agendas,” Hanson said. “We are Australia’s smallest parliament in a small jurisdiction and we do not think that a majority of one person in the ACT should change the definition of marriage for a country of over 23 million people.”

Australia’s neighboring country of New Zealand legalized same-sex marriage in April. 

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