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Is Marriage Equality Going to Get a Green Light in the ACT?

Jeremy HansonThe Australian Capital Territory is moving quickly to introduce marriage equality legislation in the wake of Labor’s defeat at the federal poll. Politicians are set to debate the proposed laws on Thursday but the territories opposition leader warns that the move will the issue being debated in the High Court.

At the same time the Australian Christian Lobby has stepped up it’s opposition campaign to the introduction of state based marriage laws. With same sex marriage legislation waiting in the wings in several states, the campaign for marriage equality may be about to splinter into many different battles across the nation.

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In 2006 the ACT was the first government in Australia to bring in civil unions, the move was quickly struck down by federal Liberal government under John Howard. However changes brought in at a federal level now make it much harder for the federal government to repeal a territory based law.

The ACT’s Attorney General Simon Corbell advocates that same sex marriage is something that constituents want to government to bring in.

“We believe this reform is warranted and long overdue. Same-sex couples in the ACT deserve the right to be married in the same way that heterosexual couples already can be. And with the stalemate at the federal level, and having waited to see whether or not reform would happen at the federal level, the ACT government has now decided that it will act to legislate for a Territory-based scheme,” Mr Corbell told the ABC.

The Attorney General believes that the proposed legislation will stand up to any scrutinising from the the High Court and he’s prepared to give it a robust defense. The state’s opposition leader Jeremy Hanson (pictured) disagrees and has said the issue is one that should be resolved at a federal level. Speaking to the Canberra Times Mr Hanson put forward his view that the legislation did not belong at a state or territory level.

”Ultimately, I don’t think that this is something that we should be driving as a controversial social issue out of the Legislative Assembly of the ACT,” said Mr Hanson.

Mr Hanson argues that the Liberal victory at the recent federal election is a sign that marriage equality is not a high priority for the Australian public.

”It’s a national issue,” said Mr Hanson,  “We just had a federal election and the two parties who were advocating gay marriage went backwards significantly.”

Prominent spokesman for the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton also argues that the recent defeat of the Labor party at the federal election shows a clear signal that the issue is not important to the majority of Australians.

“During the many same-sex marriage debates in the last Parliament MPs consistently said same-sex marriage was simply not a priority for people in their electorates. Despite Kevin Rudd and Labor elevating the issue to front and centre of the election campaign, this sentiment has not changed,” said Mr Shelton.

The Australian Christian Lobby have a cited a poll they commissioned in the wake of the election result that showed that marriage equality was not amongst the the top three issues for voters at the ballot box. The issue failed to rate in the top three issues for voters regardless of their political affiliation.

The poll conducted by JWS Research also found that only 45% of respondents we in favour of the marriage act being changed, a stark contrast to other polls in the past which have registered support as being as high as 63%.

Speaking to the ABC Mr Shelton argued that the federal parliament should step in and override any action the territory government takes on changing the definition of marriage.

“Well I think it’s really important that the Parliament, the Commonwealth Parliament, moves to override any moves by the ACT Legislative Assembly to redefine marriage. It’s up to the Commonwealth to defend the Constitution and the issue should be decided there,” said Mr Shelton.

Graeme Watson, front page image – stock image YayMicro – NRL

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