Marriage equality advocates are optimistic Norfolk Island’s bid to allow gay marriage won’t be quashed in the High Court as an ACT law was.
A gay descendant of Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian says he’s excited he may soon be able to wed his partner, as one of Australia’s smallest territories pushes forward with plans to make same-sex marriage legal.
Rebellion is once again in the air on Norfolk Island, as the self-governing territory of 2000 people halfway between Australia and New Zealand prepares to vote on the law in coming weeks.
Cam Christian, who like many Norfolk Islanders can claim lineage to the master’s mate who more than 200 years ago led a mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty, is hoping the government in Canberra does not intervene.
“I’m just so proud that Norfolk is leading the way on an issue that matters to so many people,” Mr Christian told AAP.
“When my partner, Paul, and I got engaged we planned to have a commitment ceremony on the island, but the chance to be married in front of family and friends is just so important and affirming for us.”
Mr Christian grew up on Norfolk Island but left to study in Brisbane when he was 18.
“It’s just such a dear and beautiful place and has given me so much, it would just be amazing,” he said.
The Brisbane pair hoped Norfolk Island’s move would lead to gay marriage on the Australian mainland.
It is also estimated the severely depressed local economy could benefit by up to $12 million a year from the traffic of Australian same-sex couples marrying on the island.
The legislation, which was tabled in Norfolk Island parliament on Wednesday, has been drafted so that it establishes a separate scheme for same-sex marriages that runs in parallel to, but does not touch on the Federal Marriage Act.
It’s for this reason that supporters of the legislation both on the island and the mainland believe the laws will stand up to a challenge in the High Court. They stress the laws are not the same as those introduced in the ACT and overturned by the High Court last year.
Legislative Assembly member Hayden Evans, who introduced the bill on Wednesday, said the island’s legal approach was more constitutionally sound than the ACT’s doomed attempt.
“The subject of same-sex marriage may seem controversial and far away from the many other issues that the government has before it,” Mr Evans told parliament.
“But surely human rights and equality should never stray from our sights.”
The legislation’s architects include Australian constitutional law academic Professor George Williams and barrister Bret Walker SC.
The next sitting of the island’s legislative assembly will not begin until October 15, allowing time for community consultation and legal input into the bill before a full debate.