A region in Australia has given the thumbs up to same-sex marriage, but the new law faces a legal challenge by the federal government.
On Tuesday, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Parliament approved a marriage equality bill by eight votes to seven.
The ACT is a self-governing territory in the south east of Australia in which Canberra, the capital city of Australia, is located.
According to the Canberra Times, Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who is gay, said that the law “marks an important step in our journey to become the most LGBTI city in Australia.”
While the bill’s passage was met with thunderous applause from the local parliament’s public gallery, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is unlikely to be thrilled.
He is opposed to same-sex marriage rights and has promised to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the High Court of Australia.
Under Australian federal law, marriage is defined as only being between a man and woman.
Constitutional law experts have warned that the ACT’s marriage equality law is vulnerable to a High Court challenge unless certain amendments are passed to clearly define the law as referring to state marriage and not federal marriage.
“We understand the ACT government will continue to take action to strengthen the legislation, which will be welcomed by the many couples across the ACT and Australia who will soon get married in under the Territory law,” commented Ivan Hinton, the Deputy director of the group Australian Marriage Equality.
“Today’s vote sends a strong message to the federal government and state governments that loving and committed same-sex couples want to get married and want to uphold it’s values and responsibilities,” he said.
It is expected that same-sex couples from across Australia will be able to start marrying in the ACT from December, unless the law is reversed by the High Court.
Ironically, Prime Minister Abbot’s sister, Christine Forster, is lesbian. She revealed this week that she is engaged to her long term partner Virginia Edwards.
She told Nine Network that while her brother supported her relationship he did not agree with her views on marriage equality.
Forster said she would wait for same-sex marriage to be legalised in her hometown of Sydney before tying the knot.