Court rules out ACT’s marriage equality, conscience vote urged

The Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is calling for a federal conscience vote following a High Court’s ruling on Thursday quashing the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Marriage Equality Act.

ACT enacted a same sex marriage law in October, Australia’s first state ever to pass the highly-debated legislation; but the said court ruled out its validity. The state law did not meet the provisions under the Commonwealth Law.

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh and Chris Hinton-Teoh are among the first couples who got married last week in Canberra. (Photo: AME)

Twenty-seven couples from the GLTB community tied the knot in Canberra last week hoping the court will uphold their vows.  The ruling dashed their honeymoon on Thursday.

AME is now pressing for a new legislation through a conscience vote. National Director Rodney Croome said in a press release today the federal government has indicated that it is possible to legislate a new law on marriage equality through a conscience vote. He said the possibility has been indicated by Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

A separate press release also said four Liberal state premiers support the federal Coalition’s conscience vote, including Barry O’Farrell (NSW), Denis Napthine (VIC), Colin Barnett (WA) and Campbell Newman (QLD). The press release said the premiers have all urged the federal parliament to deal with the issue.

Croome added “if Coalition leaders as conservative as Colin Barnett can see the importance of a marriage equality conscience vote, Tony Abbott has no excuses”.

“With four Liberal premiers telling Abbott that community attitudes are changing and a marriage equality conscience vote is a no-brainer he’d be unwise not to listen.”

AME Deputy Director Ivan Hinton-Teoh, who married his husband, Chris Hinton-Teoh, under the overturned ACT law, said that in the absence of a timetable for federal reform the states and territories should continue to endeavour to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The federal Labor Party allows a conscience vote on marriage equality. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has earlier said a Coalition conscience vote is a matter for the Coalition party room to decide.

 

Ashleigh Watson and Narell Majic who got married this week comfort each other after the High Court ruling. (Photo: AME)

 ACT Government

The ACT Government is disappointed with the ruling and pledged to re-legislate for civil unions but not same-sex marriage.

The High Court cannot uphold the ACT same sex marriage law as it lacks the validity of marriage defined under Commonwealth Law.

Marriage Act of 1961 provides provision for the union of man and woman. This provision defines marriage.

Today the High Court decided unanimously that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, enacted by the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory, cannot operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act 1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and that 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 Court held that “marriage” in s 51(xxi) of the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons in accordance with legally prescribed requirements which is not only a union the law recognises as intended to endure and be terminable only in accordance with law but also a union to which the law accords a status affecting and defining mutual rights and obligations. “Marriage” in s 51(xxi) includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.

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 solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same sex couple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia. That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.

Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect.

The Court held that the whole of the ACT Act is of no effect. Read HERE

State Legislations

Bills drafted on state levels should be worked out to meet the provision of the Commonwealth Law. Same-sex marriage bills have been tabled in five states but overturned. WA drafted the latest bill yesterday. At Federal level, same sex legislations have been scheduled for deliberations, but similarly voted down.

The GLTB believes the issue is now at a tipping point. It is just a matter of time while the concept of morality itself is radically shifting.

Australian Koalas on danger list

Oprah Winfrey cuddles a koala during her trip to Australia in 2010. (Photo: AP)

Australia’s iconic bear– the koala –will become extinct in 10 years unless a national protection is given, Green activists have warned.

The Friends of the Earth and the Gippsland Bush have slammed the Federal Government for its failure to enlist the koala in the Gippsland region of Victoria under the nationwide endangered species list.

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Tony Burke said on Monday koalas in Victoria and South Australia should not be listed due to their abundant numbers in the said regions.

He admitted though that the marsupial is facing possible extinction in three states such as Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Real estate developments in recent years are said to have primarily displaced them from their natural habitat.

More than 40 percent of the specie is reported to have disappeared in Queensland while it dropped by third in NSW over the past 20 years. In the ACT region, koalas have completely disappeared, the SMH also reported.

Sam the koala became famous around the world after this photo was taken during the Victorian bushfires. (Reuters)

Koala advocates led by the Australia Koala Foundation have been pushing for the enlistment of the specie under endangered category since 1996, but the federal government has been ignoring the issue.

Last year, Greens Senator Larissa Waters had pushed for the marsupials to be listed as a nationally-threatened species believing that they are threatened. She said that with fewer than 5000 koalas left in south-east Queensland, for example, the senator believes that koalas along the koala coast may become extinct during the next 10 years.

However, until now, the Environment Minister is not convinced that the specie should be listed under the national endangered list. He said out that that while koalas have disappeared in the three states, the animals abound in Victoria and South Australia.

He, therefore, announced that koala has been listed under endangered species category covering the three states, but not a national listing following a three year scientific assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee He said a species is usually not considered endangered if it is bountiful in some locations.

Following the announcement, the FOE and the Gippsland Bush blasted Burke for not listing the Gippsland’s Strzelecki Ranges koala as endangered or vulnerable.

In a media statement, the Green activists said the future of the Strzelecki Koala is “bleak” adding that the specie has lost 50 percent of its habitat in the past decade due to logging and fire.

FOE spokesperson Anthony Amis said almost the entire habitat of the Strzelecki koala is in private hands. He said the Hancock Victorian Plantations has converted close to 10,000 hectares of koala habitat over the past 14 years. Add to this was the 2009 Churchill and Boolarra bushfires which burnt out approximately 20,000ha of koala habitat.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Strzelecki koalas were killed during those fires. After 14 years of logging key koala habitat, Hancock Victorian Plantations still do not have a koala management plan, and 75% of logs from the Strzelecki Ranges end up at Maryvale Pulp Mill owned by Nippon Paper.

The activists groups claim that most of Victoria’s koalas are translocated from the South Gippsland to the French Island in the 1880′s. These koalas are said to have a low genetic diversity compared to the only native koala population which is based in the Strzelecki Ranges.

Amis is convinced that the “genetically superior Strzelecki koala” holds the key to the preservation of the species in Victoria, because translocated koalas suffer from a range of problems, many of which are the result of inbreeding.

The Strzelecki koala does not suffer from the problems of inbreeding which makes it more robust than its translocated cousins. “Its population is clearly unique in the context of Victorian and South Australian koalas. This simple fact appears to have eluded the Minister.”

Environment Minister Tony Burke during a media ambush interview. (Photo: News Corp)

In a related development, the Envronment Minister lashed out at the new Queensland Priemere Campbell Newman who released a statement claiming the koala protection law as a “needless duplication” and a “mindless red tape.” Newman claims that the environmental law will only serve as a red tape to potentially slow down the construction industry.

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