Abbott vs. the ACT
Abbott vs. the ACT
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In a blow to the forces of bigotry, the Australian Capital Territory legalised same sex marriage on 22 October. The Marriage Equality Same Sex Act 2013 is the result of the efforts of thousands of people around the country.

Our determination over the last decade never to give up – to rally in our tens, hundreds and thousands, to place a national spotlight on the injustice of discrimination and to keep that light shining when the Liberal and Labor parties wished it away – has clearly paid off.

It shows that protesting and making a fuss can have an impact; it will only fuel our determination to keep pushing for full equality for all people.

Outrageously, head grinch and homophobe Tony Abbott lodged a constitutional challenge to the legislation less than 24 hours after it passed. We now have to fight to defend these newly gained civil rights.

Abbott has asked couples not to marry before the federal government’s High Court challenge concludes. We are laughing at the request. Many will be getting married in Canberra in defiance of the prime minister – who describes homosexuality as “threatening”. The first legally recognised same sex marriages in Australia will go ahead in December.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher’s response to Attorney General George Brandis’ request to delay the laws was a defiant “See you in court”.

Whether the ACT’s laws stand up to challenge remains to be seen. Legal experts have differing opinions, but we know that their system is, to a degree, open to the influences of the outside world. Protests will be held around the country on 23 November, demanding that the High Court uphold the Marriage Equality Same Sex Act 2013.

If the ACT laws withstand challenge, it won’t be the end of the campaign. The ACT government’s eleventh-hour decision to change the wording of the legislation – from encompassing all people not recognised by the federal Marriage Act to recognising only same sex marriages – has understandably created ill-will and mistrust among a number of transgender people. And intersex people are systematically discriminated against by requirements to nominate a sex and gender.

Our campaign has always demanded that marriage rights be extended to all people, wherever they live, regardless of their sex and gender identities. So while we defend the step forward represented by the new laws, we call on the ACT government to fulfil its promise to expand the scope of its legislation. And we will have to keep fighting until we get federal change that eliminates all vestiges of discrimination.

[Cat Rose is National Union of Students Queer Officer.]

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