Same-sex marriage is now legal in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) however the new wording of the bill has meant the law now excludes trans* and intersex people.
The ACT parliament has passed the Marriage Equality Same Sex Act 2013 today, Tuesday 22 October, with eight votes to seven making it the first state to legalise same sex marriage in Australia.
The bill was changed last minute to include the words “same sex” as there were growing concerns that without specific wording the bill would be struck down.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says: “We regret that that change is being made but we recognise that the views of a number of constitutional experts are that we should put that issue beyond doubt in the terminology that’s applied in our bill.”
Tony Briffa, vice-president of Organisation Intersex International Australia says the intersex community is “not genuinely included” in the bill and as a result it does not truly represent marriage equality.
“I support same sex marriages, but it’s tough listening to this when marriages like mine will still not be recognised. This is not a marriage equality bill,” says Briffa.
“Today intersex people like me have fallen further behind in our rights. We have no rights as children when the medical profession modify us without our consent, and intersex people like me don’t have any rights when we get older and we want to be recognised in our biological sex and want to marry as the people we are.”
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says the bill marks “an important day in the history of the assembly and the history of the ACT”.
“There is no longer any excuse, if there ever was, to discriminate against same-sex people in our community. They are our brothers, our sisters, our coworkers, our mentors, but most importantly they are our equals,” she says.
Will the bill now passed there is uncertainty as to whether an impending High Court challenge from the federal government will strike down the law. The government is expected to argue that it is the constitutional right of the federal government to decide on marriage equality legislation and as such the ACT law may be rendered void.
| Sarah Murphy