Tony Abbott launches legal challenge after Australia’s capital passes gay marriage

His sister, Christine Forster, has said she plans to marry her long-term gay partner

Sydney

The Australian Capital Territory has become the first place in the country to legalise same-sex marriage.

After a short debate, the parliament for the ACT – which consists of Canberra and its immediate surrounds – passed a bill allowing gay couples to marry within the territory, no matter which state they live in.

However, Tony Abbott’s centre-right government immediately announced a High Court challenge, as federal law stipulates that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

A public opponent of the challenge is Mr Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, who has said she plans to marry her long-term gay partner.

Ms Forster, a councillor in Sydney, said in a television interview that she was engaged to Virginia Edwards, and called on her brother to allow his Liberal Party MPs a conscience vote if the issue comes before the federal parliament again. They were obliged to vote against a same-sex marriage bill in September last year, ensuring the legislation was defeated.

The move by the ACT is a direct challenge to the federal government. The latter believes that only it – and not the states and territories – can legislate on marriage. The Attorney-General, George Brandis, warned yesterday that couples who wed in the ACT might find their marriages invalid.

Mostly, though, it was a day for celebrating, with a packed public gallery bursting into a rendition of “Love is in the Air” as the territory’s legislative assembly passed the new law. The Deputy Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, who is gay, tearfully acknowledged “the sacrifice, the suffering, the struggle and the tireless exertions … of gay and lesbian Canberrans, their parents and their families”.

The Prime Minister’s sister, Christine Forster, is gay and wants to get married (Rex) The Prime Minister’s sister, Christine Forster, is gay and wants to get married (Rex)  

Mr Abbott is firmly opposed to same-sex marriage, and during the recent election campaign angered many by describing it as a “fashion of the moment”. Although he is close to his sister, the pair disagree vehemently on this issue.

In the interview on Channel Nine, Ms Forster said she hoped to get married in Sydney, preferably under federal law. New South Wales, along with other state governments, is contemplating following the ACT’s example.

The leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, urged the federal government to abandon its legal action. “My message to Tony Abbott and George Brandis is: get out of the way. You are on the wrong side of history,” she said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain