It has not been a good week for LGBT rights. On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court reinstated the country’s criminal sanctions against same sex relationships, effectively criminalizing the LGBT community. Today, Australia’s High Court decided unanimously that state legislation permitting same-sex marriage violates the Australian constitution.
The case arose when the Australian federal government took the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to court over legislation permitting same sex marriage. The ACT passed a bill in October making the territory the first part of Australia to legalise same-sex weddings. The Australian government argued that the federal Marriage Act defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, and that Australian states cannot override that definition.
In a unanimous decision, the High Court of Australia agreed. It ruled that only Australia’s federal Parliament had the power to define marriage, and that it did so unequivocally through the Marriage Act. It is therefore only within the power of Australia’s federal Parliament to change that definition.
You can read the High Court’s decision here:
The decision is certainly a set back in the march toward same sex marriage in Australia. Despite the fact that more than two-thirds of Australians favour same-sex marriage, there seems to be little interest from Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government to move forward with change.
At a personal level, the decision is devastating for the 27 same-sex couples who were married in the ACT since last October. “It sends a message that the love of a same-sex couple is a lesser kind of love, is second-rate.” said an email release from GetUp Australia. “As an Australian married, there is no way that I’ll return to Australia and not have my marriage recognized” said David Brown, a Canadian permanent resident who was married to his Canadian spouse in Toronto.
For the Canadian LGBT community, equality seems to have arrived swiftly and effortlessly in retrospect. In many parts of the world, this is clearly not the case. The struggle for equality requires a mix of strategies - legal, political, and above all personal. In Australia as in India and the United States, public support for gay marriage has been on a steady increase. The more that this trend continues, the more that success will be inevitable, eventually.