Marriage equality campaign launches High Court challenge against postal plebiscite

Marriage equality campaign launches High Court challenge against postal plebiscite

The Human Rights Law Centre has today filed a legal action against the Australian Government on behalf of Australian Marriage Equality and Senator Janet Rice. The action challenges the constitutional validity of the postal plebiscite on marriage equality. 

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre, said the urgent injunction was necessary to prevent the Government and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from spending millions of dollars without a legal basis. 

"This is simply about fairness and equality for LGBTIQ Australians who should be free to marry the person they love. It is crucial that we launch these proceedings and confirm the legal validity of the postal plebiscite before $122 million of taxpayer dollars is spent on an unfair and unnecessary process only designed to frustrate and delay marriage equality," said Ms Brown.

The HRLC will be arguing that the expenditure of funds on the plebiscite is not constitutionally valid because it has not been authorised by legislation.

“There are serious legal issues that need to be considered by the Court. Most importantly, how the expenditure of funds can be valid when the power the Minister is relying on applies only in ‘urgent and unforeseen’ circumstances. It’s difficult to see how the fulfilment of an election commitment is unforeseen,” said Ms Brown.

The Finance Minister is able to seek an advance from funds appropriated under the Appropriations Act in ‘urgent and unforeseen circumstances’.

Alex Greenwich, Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, said it was important for the national campaign for marriage equality to bring this action on behalf the many supporters of marriage equality across the country.

“Our legal challenge is a reminder to the government that it's time they did their job and voted for marriage equality, rather than wasting time and money,” said Mr Greenwich.

A long-time advocate for marriage equality and member of the LGBTIQ community, Senator Janet Rice is joining the proceeding to ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t spent on a divisive process.

“I’m pleased to join this case. The postal plebiscite would subvert the will of the Parliament after the Senate again rejected legislation for a plebiscite. LGBTIQ Australians and their families will be hurt by this expensive, divisive, non-compulsory, non-binding postal,” said Senator Rice.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519

Clint McGilvray, Australian Marriage Equality: 0413 285 186