Australia’s High Court on Thursday struck down gay marriage in the nation’s capital where dozens have wed under a landmark law, ruling that parliament must decide whether to approve same-sex unions.
Had the nation’s top court upheld the Australian Capital Territory’s gay marriage legislation it would have opened the door to similar laws being passed across the country, pressuring the government to make it legal at a national level.
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the national parliament — not state and territory authorities — had the ultimate say over marriage and whether it was extended to same-sex couples was a matter for lawmakers.
“The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples,” the court said.
“That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage,” it added.
“Under the constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament.”
The decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as invalid.
Gay marriage has been explicitly outlawed in Australia since 2004, when then-prime minister John Howard amended the Marriage Act to specify that such unions were only valid between a man and a woman.
Same-sex couples can have civil unions or register their relationships in most states across Australia but the government does not consider them “married” under national law.
For legal purposes they are considered de facto couples and have exactly the same rights as married couples.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]