Okay, something weird just happened with marriage in Australia, and like everything involving foreign countries, it is super-confusing. Here’s what you need to know.
The Australian Capitol Territory is a tiny little chunk of the country, big enough to encompass just one city and a little bit of nature preserve. It’s allowed to govern itself almost like it’s one of the bigger states, but the federal government still has certain authority over it.
Last month the ACT passed a marriage equality bill, much to the federal government’s annoyance. They filed suit against the ACT, claiming that having equality in one territory but not the others would be confusing. (Uh, okay, yes, that is true. There is another solution to that problem, of course, which would be full federal equality. Oh well.)
Back in 2004, the country passed a law concerning marriage as it relates to straight couples, and everyone figured that that meant marriage equality was off the table. But the ACT figured out a clever little loophole: their argument is that the federal law only defines marriage for straight people, not as straight people. In other words, it defines the parameters for heterosexual relationship recognition but doesn’t restrict any kind of legislation concerning relationship recognition for LGBTs.
So why is marriage happening this weekend all of a sudden? Because the federal government filed suit; a court heard arguments last week; and they won’t issue a ruling until next week. So in the mean time, ACT couples are free to marry starting this Saturday.
But hold on: you can’t just wander on down to the courthouse for a license. You had to have given a month’s notice, back in October or November, that you plan to marry. So far, about 40 couples have done so.
So there you have it: we’ll have 40 (or so) weddings in the next few days in Australia. Then the court will issue a decision, at which point nobody really knows what will happen. Maybe marriage will be legalized for everyone! Or maybe the law will be overturned. The married couples might be allowed to keep their marriages, or they might be dissolved. This is uncharted territory, much like most of Australia. (Lol j/k kangaroos.)