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High Court voids Australian Capital Territory same-sex marriage laws

CANBERRA, Australia, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The Australian Capital Territory same-sex marriage laws were thrown out by the High Court, ruling Thursday that the laws were unconstitutional.

The High Court's ruling, which nullified same-sex marriages performed in Australian Capital Territory, was a victory for the Commonwealth, which filed an appeal against the laws with the court, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday.

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The Australian Capital Territory argued its laws could coexist with federal laws because the territory's laws defined a different type of marriage between same-sex couples.

In its decision, the court said any changes to Australia's Marriage Act must accomplished at the federal level.

"The court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same-sex marriage, and that under the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same-sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament," the court summary of its judgment said.

"The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples," the ruling said. "Because the ACT Act does not validly provide for the formation of same-sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect."

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In September, Australian lawmakers rejected a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry.

ACT's Marriage Equality Bill passed the state's Legislative Assembly in October and the first-ever same-sex marriages in Australia took place Saturday in Canberra.

Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby told ABC he wants a referendum to ban same-sex marriage once and for all.

"If you redefine marriage you're saying yes to the proposition that it's okay for some children to be denied their natural mother and father," Shelton said. "I think that's an injustice."

Craig Berry, whose marriage to partner Ulises Garcia was annulled by the court's action, told ABC it was just a matter of time before same-sex marriage is recognized on the federal level.

"We will get there, there will be a day when [same-sex marriage] is recognized nationally and it's just a matter of time," Berry said. "When that time comes I'll be happy to say 'I do' all over again."

Federal Attorney General George Brandis said it was in Australia's interest to have a nationally consistent marriage law, regardless of people's views on same-sex marriage.

"The commonwealth welcomes this decision," Brandis said. "The basis upon which the decision was reached by their honors was the supremacy of the marriage power in ... the Constitution."

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