Australia’s Abbott to Challenge Same-Sex Marriage Laws in Court

The Australian government will mount a High Court challenge against a bid to legalize same-sex marriage in a territory that encompasses the capital Canberra, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

“It is pretty clear under our constitution that it is the Commonwealth that has responsibility for the rules regarding marriage,” Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition won Sept. 7 elections, told reporters in Darwin today. “We think it’s important that there be a uniform approach to marriage throughout the Commonwealth and that’s what we are going to do our best to ensure.”

The Labor government of the Australian Capital Territory will push ahead with same-sex marriage laws after federal Attorney-General George Brandis warned of the pending legal challenge, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said in an Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview yesterday. The laws are expected to pass this month and the first marriages may occur as early as December, she said.

Abbott is seeking to enforce jurisdiction over the matter after the Greens party introduced same-sex legislation into the federal parliament last year that was subsequently defeated. Abbott, who has come under criticism for holding socially-conservative beliefs, has a gay sister and as opposition leader indicated he’d support allowing coalition party room members to vote on the issue according to their own views.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in July shepherded though laws to let same-sex couples marry, as well as at civil ceremonies. Couples with civil partnerships are able to convert them into marriages and people in heterosexual marriages are allowed to change gender and stay married.

‘Futile Action’

Brazil, France and South Africa are among other nations that allow same-sex couples to marry. In Australia, Tasmania state recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Abbott, 55, said future federal parliaments may consider introducing same-sex marriage laws.

“If this matter were to come up again it would be dealt with by our party-room in the usual way,” Abbott, 55, said. “If it comes up, we’ll look at it and we’ll decide exactly what’s going to happen.”

Greens leader Christine Milne said the government’s legal challenge was unjustified.

“Tony Abbott and George Brandis will need to look same-sex couples in the eye and explain the real reasons they are taking this futile action,” Milne said in an e-mailed statement today. “It’s last century discrimination and the rest of us have moved on.”

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