AUSTRALIA’S highest court has struck down a landmark law allowing gay marriages, shattering the dreams of more than two dozen same-sex newlyweds whose marriages will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.
The federal government had challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory’s law that had allowed gay marriages in the capital Canberra and the surrounding area, starting last Saturday.
The federal government’s lawyer 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.
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.
For Ivan Hinton, who married his partner Chris Teoh on Saturday, the result was heartbreaking.
Mr Hinton said he does not regret going through with the wedding and will always consider Mr Teoh his husband. “This was an unprecedented and historic opportunity,” he said. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Rodney Croome, national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, said his group knows of about 30 same-sex couples who had married since Saturday. The ruling means their marriages are nullified.
Outside the court in Canberra, a tearful Mr Croome, flanked by several same-sex couples who were married in the past week, said the ruling was a defeat for marriage equality but there had been a greater victory this week.
“That victory was the nation saw for the first time, I believe, what is really at the core of this issue – they’ve seen that marriage equality is not about protest or politics or even about laws in the constitution, ultimately. Marriage equality is about love, commitment, family and fairness,” Mr Croome said.
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.