Australian Government succeeds in striking down ACT marriage laws, but High Court delivers important silver lining

Although disappointed that the High Court has today overturned the ACT’s new same-sex marriage laws, marriage equality advocates have welcomed the court’s confirmation that the Federal Parliament does have the ability to legislate for marriage equality.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, Anna Brown, said the unfavourable decision, which nullifies the marriages of all the couples who tied the knot over the last week in the ACT, did at least point to a way forward.

“This is obviously a blow to the same-sex couples who have made the most of the short window of opportunity to get married in the ACT. Fortunately, there is a silver lining – the High Court has confirmed beyond doubt that the Australian Constitution allows the Federal Parliament to legislate for marriage equality,” said Ms Brown.

The Human Rights Law Centre represented Australian Marriage Equality to appear as a “friend of the court” during the case to provide specialist information to the hearing.

Ms Brown said the outcome clears the way for the Federal Parliament to show leadership and deliver marriage equality across the nation.

“It’s clear that the majority of Australians want our Federal Parliamentarians to ensure all Australians are equal before the law. Discrimination against same-sex couples needs to end and our politicians have the power to end it now and to make marriage equality a reality across the country,” said Ms Brown.

While the Human Rights Law Centre previously expressed concerns about the chances of the ACT’s laws surviving the Australian Government’s challenge, Ms Brown said state-based laws such as the proposals in Tasmania and NSW, would have a greater chance of surviving a High Court challenge.

“Importantly, as well as confirming that the Federal Parliament can legislate for same-sex marriage, the problems in the ACT law identified by the Court have not been included in the NSW and Tasmania same-sex marriage bills, so there are still ample avenues for Australians to pursue marriage equality,” said Ms Brown.

The High Court’s decision can be found online here and its summary here.

Australian Marriage Equality is represented on a pro bono basis by Jeremy Kirk SC, and Perry Herzfeld of Counsel, the Human Rights Law Centre and law firm Allens.


For further information or comments contact:
Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, on 0422 235 522 or