"More than anything, they are our equals."
December 7, 2013 6:30 AM   Subscribe

West Australian MP Stephen Dawson and his partner Dennis Liddelow have become the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Australia. But the High Court of Australia may declare the legislation that allowed them to get married — and thus their marriage itself — invalid next week.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has long lead the fight for marriage equality in Australia. On 22 October 2013, the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act, which legalises same-sex marriage in the territory.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher spoke before the Assembly:
"There is no longer any excuse, if there ever was, to discriminate against same-sex couples in our community.

They are our children, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our leaders, our business people, our mentors and our colleagues.

More than anything, they are our equals. The Marriage Equality Act puts this fundamental principle and human right into law."
The Australian Government has challenged the constitutional validity of the legislation. Their challenge (PDF) and the ACT Government’s response (PDF) are available online. Although Australia's federal Marriage Act was amended in 2004 to define marriage as “the union of a man and a woman”, the act does not specifically prohibit same-sex marriages from being performed in Australia. The ACT believes this leaves space for the states and territories to pass their own legislation regarding same-sex marriage.

With the first marriages scheduled for today (December 7), the High Court was expected to rule last week. The choice to reserve their decision until December 12 opened the five-day window for couples to marry.

Forty-seven couples registered to be married this weekend. The ABC has stories on a few of them: Veroncia Wensing and Krishna Sadhana and Ulises Garcia and Craig Berry. Uniting Church minister Roger Munson, a long-term advocate for marriage equality, will be performing some of the ceremonies.

Popular Australian singer/songwriter Holly Throsby come out today to support marriage equality.
posted by Georgina (13 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not only have I never heard of West Australian MP Stephen Dawson, in all the coverage that I came across today that fact was missing. But then I have no idea who Holly Throsby is.

With the first marriages scheduled for today (December 7), the High Court was expected to rule last week. The choice to reserve their decision until December 12 opened the five-day window for couples to marry.

I had understood there was always a window for people to marry, from the moment the government launched its challenge, but it isn't an issue I follow too closely (but I tend to think the ACT is being a bit too clever by trying to make an end run around the Commonwealth, especially since, as I understand it, the Commonweath can pretty much over-ride the territories on anything they feel like it).

But, anything that annoys Tony, I'm tending to support.
And Christmas at the Abbott household will be pretty uncomfortable his sister (a lesbian) can gloat.
posted by Mezentian at 7:01 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should add that this is a pretty top-notch post.
posted by Mezentian at 7:02 AM on December 7, 2013

Huh! Today I learned Holly Throsby is not just a children's singer! Well, my nieces are big fans, in any case.

Anyway, I loved this quote from her op-ed:

"If people in straight relationships feel that my song mirrors theirs, enough to play it at their wedding, then aren't our experiences the same? Isn't my experience of love as good and as valid as theirs? And, if so, then why can't I get married too?"
posted by olinerd at 9:08 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Holly Throsby - Now I Love Someone

From Georgina's Link:

"I've had the honour of singing at four of my friends' weddings. I was flattered to be asked each time and humbled to be part of the celebration. I wrote a song years ago called Now I Love Someone which is a great wedding song. It's about falling in love, how it changes your life, and how just greeting that person after a long day can make you happy. Several strangers have written to me over the years to say they walked down the aisle to that song. Isn't that something? I was touched. I'm not sure if any of them knew I'd written it about a woman. Hopefully that wouldn't change anything. It's irrelevant. Being in love is being in love. Except, of course, when it comes to marriage."
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:06 PM on December 7, 2013

Thanks, Mezentian. Regarding the marriage window, my understanding is that it only exists because the High Court has yet to make a decision.

Same-sex marriage was scheduled to became legal in the ACT on December 7. The High Court hearing finished on December 3. (Which I confusingly called "last week" in the post because I wrote some of it early Sunday morning.) If the High Court had handed down its decision on, say, December 5 and declared the legislation constitutionally invalid, couples would not have been able to marry. It's only because the decision was reserved until December 12, and because the Commonwealth did not seek an injunction, that the marriages could go ahead.
posted by Georgina at 3:14 PM on December 7, 2013

WA Labor politician Stephen Dawson appears to be a bit of a political blankspot. Despite his roll as Shadow Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Child Protection he doesn't seem to have done anything of note aside from scooting across to the other side of the country to get married, despite the fact that when he returns to WA it won't be recognised.

I assume that's part of the point, and he'll try and get a private member's bill up (or get a vote called on one that exists from 2012).

because the Commonwealth did not seek an injunction,

That would seem an error on the part of the Government. They should obviously get whoever is working on "illegals" policy to give this the once over.
posted by Mezentian at 3:32 PM on December 7, 2013

Guess Abbott will decide who will marry in this country and the circumstances in which they marry.
posted by de at 5:32 PM on December 11, 2013

Whatever the morality of the High Court's ruling, I always thought this would happen.

The ACT was trying it on, and they knew they were trying to make a point. They got their happy snaps, the world did not end.
posted by Mezentian at 6:15 PM on December 11, 2013

The High Court has declared the ACT's Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act unconstitutional.
Today the High Court 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.
From the summary judgement (PDF). Full judgement coming at a later date.

Thanks for trying, ACT.
posted by Georgina at 6:15 PM on December 11, 2013

I don't think the ACT was going through a show for the sake of it. I think the ACT Assembly wanted to do the right thing by its constituents who were in same-sex relationships and wanted to get married, and as the Federal Liberal Government has shown a complete unwillingness to budge on this issue, they tried to find a legal loophole to make it happen. A similar thing happened in NSW earlier this year, where the same-sex marriage bill was defeated in the upper house by a single vote. Even if it'd been passed, it would've been struck down at the Federal level (as we've seen today), but that's not the point. The point is that people -- largely straight people -- are standing up and fighting for LGBT rights. That's huge, in my view, even if the outcome has been less-than-ideal up until now.

This is how change happens, not with one grand gesture but with a series of baby steps.
posted by Georgina at 6:30 PM on December 11, 2013

I'm a cynic. I suspect they were genuine in wanting to change the law, but realistic that they didn't stand much of a chance.

I'm also curious whether Gillard's government would have challenged the laws or not.
I get the sense that might have been a different outcome.
posted by Mezentian at 6:44 PM on December 11, 2013

I'm also curious whether Gillard's government would have challenged the laws or not.

Probably. The Commonwealth cares more about the supremacy of its position in the federation than it does about gay marriage. Plus, Gillard's same-sex marriage policy was driven by the Labor Right, despite her sad efforts to spin it otherwise since leaving office.
posted by kithrater at 10:58 PM on December 11, 2013

Yes, but the Labor-Greens Coalition!

I suspect parts of her party would have asked her to let it lie, and she may have, regardless of her personal preference.

We will never know.
posted by Mezentian at 4:53 AM on December 12, 2013

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