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Australian Capital Territory’s gay-marriage law struck down

High Court rules that ACT's law 'cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act'

Chris Teoh (left) and Ivan Hinton, spokesman for Australian Marriage Equality, tied the knot during the five-day window before the High Court overturned the ACT's gay-marriage law Dec 12. The ruling means that their marriage will be rendered invalid. Credit: australianmarriageequality.com

Australia's High Court struck down the fledgling gay-marriage law of the Australian Capital Territory Dec 12, leaving almost 30 couples who said their "I dos" within the last week facing having their marriages invalidated, the BBC reports

In a statement regarding the decision, the High Court said it "decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament."

The court also notes that the federal Marriage Act "does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples."

It further stated, "Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect."

The statement concluded that the entire ACT law is "of no effect."

Anger over the court's decision erupted on Twitter. One person called the invalidation of the law "a kick in the gut," while some expressed sympathy for the couples who had married before the ruling. Others turned their ire on the court and Prime Minister Tony Abbott (whose government challenged the territory's law as unconstitutional), calling the decision "disgusting" and "disgraceful."

ACT's chief minister, Katy Gallagher, says her government "has no apologies" for pursuing the passage of the territory's gay-marriage measure, noting that it had strong political and community support and had pushed debate on the issue, The Australian reports.

BBC quotes Greens leader Christine Milne as saying that while the court's ruling clearly states that the power to legislate on the issue lies with the federal parliament, people who support same-sex marriage should see it as motivation to press the federal government and legislators to make it legal.

Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby says it "welcomed the High Court’s decision to reject the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws."

The group's managing director, Lyle Shelton, says, “Marriage between a man and a woman is good for society and beneficial for governments to uphold in legislation. It’s about providing a future for the next generation where they can be raised by their biological parents, wherever possible."