Post submitted by Jane WothayaThirikwa, HRC Global Engagement Fellow

The Australian Capital Territory’s government has announced that it will introduce a bill this week to legalize same-sex marriage in the territory.  The territory’s minority Labor government will present its marriage equality bill to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. The proposal will make the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce a marriage bill for same-sex couples. The reform was promised by the Labor party before last year’s territory election. The laws will not have a residency requirement; meaning same-sex couples who do not live in the territory will be able to have a marriage ceremony in the ACT.
 According to Australia's ABC, 52 percent of Australians support same-sex marriage.
According to ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, the government was determined to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. “With this legislation, we will state loud and clear that all people have equal rights in our society and are treated equally by our laws,” said Gallagher.
Same-sex couples living in the ACT have been allowed to register their partnerships since 2008 and hold civil partnership ceremonies since 2009, when the ACT became the first territory in Australia to introduce such legislation. Constitutional experts have warned however that the territory’s new equal marriage legislation may not supersede the Federal Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Last month, John Berry was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia, the first openly gay ambassador to a G20 country. Same-sex marriage supporters in the country have hoped that his appointment will bring the issue of marriage equality back to the political fore.

Filed under: International, Marriage

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