Same-sex marriage legalised
ACT Parliament legalises same-sex marriage in an emotion-filled day, with gays and lesbians celebrating the new law.
Same sex marriage laws will be debated in the NSW Parliament next week after a group of MPs pushing for the reform received expert advice their bill can survive a challenge in the High Court.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe – a member of the cross-party working group advocating for the laws – will introduce the bill in the upper house on October 31.
The advice came as the ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to pass same sex marriage law.
Celebration: The public gallery applaud the passing of the same sex marriage bill in the ACT. Photo: Rohan Thomson
On Tuesday federal Attorney-General George Brandis said the Commonwealth would seek an expedited hearing to challenge the ACT laws in the High Court.
This was in part to minimise any ”distress” for the hundreds of gay couples expected to marry from mid-December onwards if the court sides with the Commonwealth.
The group of NSW MPs has advice from barrister Bret Walker, SC, that their bill is constitutionally valid. The advice says the key consideration is that the NSW bill gives same sex marriage a separate ”status” from a marriage under the federal Marriage Act and therefore is not in conflict with it.
“There’s been a sea change within conservative thinking on the issue of marriage equality”: Labor MP Penny Sharpe. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
”In our view, an act in the form of the NSW bill would not be inconsistent with the Marriage Act 1961,” it concludes.
University of NSW constitutional law expert George Williams said the bill was in ”good shape”, having been carefully redrafted after an upper house inquiry.
”They really have done everything they possibly could to give it the best chance of surviving,” he said. ”There’s no certainty about this. But it maximises the chance of it being constitutional and Bret Walker’s advice is that it gets there. But really only the seven judges [of the High Court] can tell you that.”
“A strong community campaign and a strong parliamentary campaign”: Independent MP Alex Greenwich. Photo: James Alcock
Supporters are cautiously confident it will pass the upper house, but are uncertain it would get enough support in the lower house, despite Liberal, Nationals and Labor MPs having conscience votes.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who is part of the working group, said there would be ”a strong community campaign and a strong parliamentary campaign” to convince MPs to vote in support.
”I think there is a strong base of support to start from. We know there are members with concerns about the constitution, religious concerns and electorate concerns.”
The campaign would be ”about working with those members to address their specific concerns”, Mr Greenwich said.
Ms Sharpe said a lower house defeat could not be taken for granted. ”There’s been a sea change within conservative thinking on the issue of marriage equality.”
The Liberal MP for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith, also a working group member, said: ”We don’t know what we’re up against until we see it go through the Legislative Council where there will be issues raised and opinions expressed.”