Page 3580 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 22 October 2013

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This is not the only change. In the early 1990s just over 50 per cent of all registered marriages were preceded by the couple living together. In 2010 this figure had increased to 79 per cent and we are older when we marry as a society now. We have our children at a later age in life and many people are choosing to have children, at least initially, outside marriage. These statistics point to changing perceptions of marriages and the choices we are making in our own individual lives.

We seek to make this law with the aim of making a space beside the commonwealth Marriage Act. It is not a challenge to the commonwealth’s power to legislate for marriage. The commonwealth has not evinced its intention to legislate for same-sex marriage and in its previous legislation there has been no indication of any such interest.

Yet the commonwealth has, as we know, confirmed that it will seek to challenge this bill in the High Court. It has said that it is in Australia’s best interest that there be nationally consistent marriage laws. It has said that the commonwealth Marriage Act already provides this consistency and that this law we debate today is a threat to that well-established position. The ACT says that this law can operate concurrently with the commonwealth law in the manner intended in a federation and expressed in the constitution.

Other states, as other members have noted, have expressed a desire and intention to legislate for same-sex marriage, and we have prepared a law that seeks broad consistency with bills from those other places. There is no question that states and territories can meet the commonwealth’s concerns regarding achieving consistency in these laws across Australian state lines. The commonwealth says that its position in opposing our law is irrespective of anyone’s views on the desirability or otherwise of same-sex marriage. Madam Deputy Speaker, we beg to disagree.

The commonwealth’s announcement that they intend to proceed against the ACT law reflects the same policy position they held in 2006 when they disallowed our Civil Unions Act. The difference is the legal contrivance they now use. In 2006 the commonwealth used section 35 of the self-government act to cut down our law. While they no longer have this power, they still maintain their rigid adherence to a discriminatory policy.

This law is no threat to the commonwealth’s position unless the commonwealth’s position is to continue to perpetuate sex and gender discrimination and to use the laws of the commonwealth to perpetuate a form of segregation. The commonwealth has recognised various state and territory relationships. In 2008 it made broad amendments to its own laws to provide for property, finance and children’s matters in relation to same-sex de facto relationships. At that time the commonwealth indicated that it was legislating to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples and their children.

The government proposes a small number of amendments to this bill to make it absolutely clear that the law is capable of operating concurrently with the commonwealth act and the ACT is willing to work with other states to make

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