Page 3584 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 22 October 2013
marry under the commonwealth Marriage Act, because of the way in which “marriage” is defined under that act, to enter into a same-sex marriage in the ACT. For the same purpose, amendment No 2 changes the name of the act to the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013.
Turning to amendment No 3, this amendment is in the same manner as the first two and makes clear that marriages under this act are between two adults of the same sex that are not marriages within the meaning of the commonwealth Marriage Act. Marriages under this act are distinct from marriages under the commonwealth legislation and do not seek to encroach on those grounds.
None of these amendments are central to whether or not the bill will be found to be capable of concurrent operation by the High Court, but they do add further arguments that the territory can present in the forthcoming High Court hearing. Therefore we make them today, and we make them based on the opinion that has been provided by others, for which we are grateful.
I note that there is still a range of views as to whether or not further amendments are required. The government’s view at this time is that there is not. These amendments are about strengthening the capacity of the act rather than addressing any fundamental flaw in it. I commend the amendments to the Assembly.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.46): I will be supporting these amendments. They are minor, but they are important to the task of making this legislation as watertight as possible in the face of a federal government challenge.
Of course, it is important that, through these laws, the ACT Assembly gives its in-principle support to marriage equality and that we declare ourselves a jurisdiction that values all people, whatever their sexual identity. But it is also critical that we do everything we can to ensure that these laws survive the federal government’s challenge in the High Court.
As Mr Corbell has explained, the essence of these amendments is to clarify that the ACT legislation is creating a new concept of marriage, one that applies to people not covered by the federal act, and it is not attempting to intrude on the federal definition of “marriage”. It is similar to the approach used in drafting the Tasmanian and New South Wales bills.
I have seen the variety of legal advice, some of it received very recently from eminent constitutional lawyers. In summary, I think that the ACT’s legislation is in a strong position. We have a good basis for success in the High Court. On the other hand this remains a very vexed area of law, and no-one can be certain of the outcome. But I think these amendments are the appropriate course of action, and I am pleased that the government is willing to strengthen the bill right up to the last minute and will continue to consider the advice to make sure our legislation is as strong as possible.
What I want to see most of all is for the ACT’s marriage equality legislation to be held valid, for it to be enduring for many happy couples to marry under it, for all other states and territories in Australia to follow suit and for marriage equality to be the accepted norm in the minds of all Australians. I will be supporting the amendments.