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Australia: High Court to begin hearing expedited challenge to ACT gay marriage law

Prime minister advises gay couples to 'hold on' until law's validity has been tested

The Australian government's challenge to ACT's gay-marriage law will be heard in the high court Oct 25. Credit: smh.com.au

As Australia's High Court prepares to test the validity of a gay marriage law passed by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), prime minister Tony Abbott has advised gay couples to wait for a ruling on the matter before making preparations to tie the knot, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

But Darlene Cox and Liz Holcombe say they are not going to be dissuaded from pushing ahead with their marriage plans. Neither are Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh, who were married in Canada, and now want to marry in Australia.

ACT's attorney-general Simon Corbell is supportive of the defiant couples, calling the prime minister's advice "patronizing in the extreme."

While Corbell told the Herald he's confident that the ACT's law will survive the federal government's challenge, he acknowledges that the case has led them into "uncharted waters."

Prior to its passage Oct 22, the ACT measure was amended in a bid to ensure that it could withstand a court challenge. One change to the bill, aimed at minimizing the chance that the measure would conflict with federal laws, circumvents its dependence on the argument that gay couples can't get married under the federal Marriage Act.

Still, Abbott's government contends that the measure conflicts with the federal Marriage Act and the Family Law Act, the report says.

''It's not a question of being for or against gay marriage; it's a question of adhering to the constitution,'' Abbott said in a radio interview.

Abbott is on the record as being opposed to gay marriage, even as his sister, who is gay, prepares to marry her partner. Abbott reportedly says he will do the "right thing" and attend the wedding, but reiterates that he is a "traditionalist" on the subject of marriage.