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Australia: Court reserves judgment on challenge to ACT’s marriage bill

Gay couples given the go-ahead to marry before Dec 12 ruling

Australia's High Court has reserved judgment on the federal government's challenge of the constitutionality of the Australian Capital Territory's gay marriage bill. Credit: wikimedia.org

Ahead of a highly anticipated Australian High Court ruling regarding the validity of the Australian Capital Territory's marriage equality bill, same-sex couples will reportedly have a limited time frame within which to say their "I dos," The Australian reports.

In a suit filed with the High Court after the ACT in October became the first jurisdiction on the continent to allow gay marriage, the federal government contended that the measure is unconstitutional. The High Court today, Dec 3, decided to reserve judgment on the matter until Dec 12 and gave the go-ahead for gay couples to marry, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.

Determining who can marry is a matter governed by federal law, argues Australia's solicitor-general, on behalf of the Commonwealth. That means a man and a woman, he says. But Sky News says his ACT counterpart counters that the territory's law can exist alongside the federal law without conflicting with it. 

Sky News quotes ACT's solicitor-general, Peter Garrisson, as saying that the ACT's measure is not at odds with the current federal Marriage Act, which "covers a particular form of relationship (between a man and a woman)."

According to ABC, at least 47 couples have filed applications to get married, with the first ceremonies scheduled for Dec 7. But it remains unclear what the status of married gay couples will be if the High Court overturns the ACT's law, Sky News says.