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Australia court overturns gay marriage in capital

SYDNEY -- Australia's High Court on Thursday struck down gay marriage in the nation's capital territory, in a case seen as a test of the legality of same-sex unions.

Had the nation's top court upheld the Australian Capital Territory's gay marriage legislation it would have opened the door to similar laws being passed across the country, pressuring the government to make it legal at a national level.

In a unanimous decision, Australia's highest court ruled that the national parliament — not state and territory authorities — had the ultimate say over marriage, and whether it was extended to same-sex couples was a matter for lawmakers.

“The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples,” the court said.

“That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage,” it added.

“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 decision means that the 27 couples who have wed since the ACT laws came into effect a month ago will have their marriages annulled as unconstitutional.

There were tearful scenes outside the court as those who had married digested the judgment, with Ivan Hinton describing it as “personally devastating” to have his vows to partner Chris Teoh overturned.

“In less than a week we've been married and we've been unmarried, at least on a legal level,” he told reporters, fighting back tears.

“We're still married. I've made commitments to Chris to spend the rest of my life with him, through sickness and through health, in the good times and in the bad. Today's not particularly good.”

Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome said the case represented major progress.

“Although there's been a defeat for marriage equality in the High Court today this week we've seen a much greater victory,” an emotional Croome said.

“For the first time ever same-sex couples have married on Australian soil. That has been a huge step forward and one from which there is no return.”

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 Australian court rejects law allowing gay marriage 
A couple hug while listening to a spokesman outside the High Court of Australia in Canberra on Thursday, Dec. 12. (AFP)

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