AUSTRALIA: Parliament Rules That States Can Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

In what is being hailed as a major advance, a committee in Australia’s Parliament has ruled that states are entitled to set their own laws regarding same-sex marriage  The ruling was prompted by a demand for clarity from the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney.

The parliamentary committee report, released on Friday, overrules arguments from marriage equality opponents and others that Australian states cannot individually legalise same-sex marriage. Committee members warned, however, that state equal marriage laws could be challenged in the high court, putting the legality of same-sex marriage on a national stage. A cross-party working group welcomed the decision as ”a momentous step forward”. They also stated that the national interest in the committee’s findings demonstrated widespread support for equal marriage. Mehreen Faruqi, a Green MP and member of the cross-party group, called on Mr O’Farrell to whip his MPs on the issue. “Both the premier and opposition leader have publicly backed marriage equality; it is time they called on their parties to do the same,” she said. ”It’s about removing discrimination from law. It’s not good enough to allow a conscience vote on the rights of others.

Today the Australian Capital Territory moved on the ruling.

The ACT Government will introduce legislation during the spring sittings of the Legislative Assembly to establish the Territory Same-sex Marriage Act. Same-sex couples in the ACT have been able to register their civil partnership since 2008. But the ACT Government wants to go further and give full marriage equality to same-sex couples. The Federal Government argues it has the sole responsibility for marriage laws, but ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says he is confident the Territory has the authority to go further. “We have clear legal advice that such a scheme is possible, constitutionally in the ACT, to provide same-sex couples the highest level of equality,” he said. “The Commonwealth Marriage Act has been constructed as being exclusively between a man and a woman, any other marriage that engages for example same-sex couples is not captured by the Commonwealth mandate.”So that’s the legal opinion that we have very clearly put to us.”