Chance for same-sex marriage in Australia

Last updated 19:30 03/12/2013

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Gay couples are free to marry in the ACT this weekend after the High Court reserved its decision in the Commonwealth's challenge to the territory laws.

The court has reserved its decision in the case, in which the Commonwealth argues the territory's historic laws are in contravention of the federal marriage act, until December 12.

No injunctions were sought or ordered, so the law should take effect on Saturday.

This means couples could have a five-day window to wed under the country's first same-sex marriage law before a decision is published by the court as to whether or not to overturn the Act.

However, only those couples who have already registered with the government will be able to get married during this period. The law requires couples give at least a month's notice before vows can be exchanged.

As of November 7, more than 40 couples had given notice that they wanted to get married. However, it is not known when all these ceremonies were planned.

Michelle Stockwell and Annabel Scholes plan to marry on Saturday. Their celebrant, Jody Aulich, said five of those couples planned to marry on Saturday, and three on Sunday.

The landmark case before the full High Court bench is expected to decide whether or not the ACT has enacted a law that is in conflict with the federal marriage act and the federal family law act.

The case is the first real test of whether or not states and territories can legislate for same-sex marriage.

Attorney-General George Brandis has repeatedly refused to comment in the lead-up to the hearing, but has previously described the ACT's law as a "threat" to the "well-established position" that marriage laws should be nationally uniform.

The Abbott government acted swiftly to strike down the ACT law and mounted its challenge immediately after the Legislative Assembly passed the same-sex marriage bill in October.

The ACT government faced criticism of its bill, which advocates and constitutional law experts claimed had been drafted too quickly and did not go far enough to create a separate status of same-sex marriage to limit the chance it would be overturned by the High Court.

But the ACT government has backed its bill as being constitutionally sound and capable of concurrent operation with federal marriage laws.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the government was apprehensive about the hearing but was confident it had "strong arguments to put to the court".

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- Canberra Times

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