Australia on Friday reversed a new law allowing gay marriage in the Australian Capital Territory, canceling the marriages of more than two dozen gay couples who were wed just last Saturday. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory (a separate entity like our District of Columbia) passed a same-sex marriage law last week, but it was found by a court to contradict the larger federal Marriage Act.
The country's top court explained in the ruling:
The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnized in Australia only between a man and a woman. That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.
According to the federal government's lawyer, it would be confusing for Australia's marriage laws to differ per state or territory. Some argue that the court's decision to overturn the ruling is actually progressive, because it paves the way for legitimizing marriage equality throughout the country. That's small consolation, however, to the couples who had their brief marraiage ripped and now have to wait even longer to make it official.
According to the decision, the judges realize that Australia is behind the times on gay marriage:
What matters is that the juristic concept of marriage... embraces such unions. They are consensual unions of the kind which has been described. The legal status of marriage, like any legal status, applies to only some persons within a jurisdiction. The boundaries of the class of persons who have that legal status are set by law and those boundaries are not immutable.
Marriage rights groups are using the ruling as rallying call to reform the Marriage Act - and their opponents, to maintain it. Many of those who were married since Saturday say they are hopeful the act will be amended to make same-sex marriage permanently legal. One groom told the Associated Press, "I am now immensely proud to be part of a very unique, committed and courageous group of people, who — despite probably deep down knowing that it was going to be overturned ... still stood up and said 'no, we're going to do this.'" Another said to ABC, "We're still married as far as we're concerned."
It was another set back for gay rights globally, as earlier this week, India essentially restored a centuries old law that outlaws gay sexual relations.