Tuesday 26 September 2017

Newlyweds face annulments as Australia does U-turn on gay marriage

Ivan Hinton and partner Chris Teoh
Ivan Hinton and partner Chris Teoh

Kristen Gelineau

Australia's highest court has struck down a law that had allowed the country's first gay marriages.

The decision shatters the dreams of more than two dozen same-sex newlyweds whose marriages will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.

The federal government had challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory's (ACT) law that had allowed gay marriages in Canberra and its surrounding area.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the federal government had argued that having different marriage laws in various states and territories would create confusion.

The ACT, which passed the law in October, said it should stand, because it governs couples outside the federal definition of marriage as being between members of the opposite sex.

The High Court unanimously ruled that the ACT's law could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act, which was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman," the court said in a statement.

"That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage."

For Ivan Hinton, who married his partner Chris Teoh on Saturday, the result was heartbreaking. The couple had received their marriage certificate on Wednesday and immediately applied to change their surnames to Hinton-Teoh.

Mr Hinton-Teoh said he did not regret getting married. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Rodney Croome, national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, said his group knows of about 30 same-sex couples who have married since Saturday, although the actual number may be slightly higher.

The ruling means their marriages are now nullified. (©Independent News Service)

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