The law legalising same-sex marriage in an Australian territory has been struck down, effectively annulling the country’s first gay marriages.
On Thursday, the High Court ruled that a marriage equality law passed in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was in conflict with federal law that defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
In October, the ACT Parliament approved the bill, which was quickly challenged by the federal government. The ACT is a self-governing territory in south east Australia in which Canberra, the capital city of Australia, is located.
It’s been reported that about 30 same-sex couples got married under the law since it came into effect under a week ago, but the marriages are now no longer valid.
“This is devastating for those couples who married this week and for their families,” said Australian Marriage Equality National Director Rodney Croome.
He insisted, however, that this was just a temporary defeat. “What is far more important is that the ACT’s law facilitated the first same-sex marriage on Australian soil and showed the nation the love and commitment of same-sex couples,” said Croome.
“The marriages in the ACT prove that this reform is not about politics, but about love, commitment, and fairness.”
The High Court ruling means that no Australian state or territory may legalise same-sex marriage and that this can only be done by the federal government.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Croome called on Abbott to grant MPs in his party a free vote on the issue in the federal parliament.