Canberra, Australia — The Australian Capital Territory became the first part of the country to legalize same-sex marriages on Tuesday.
The ACT parliament passed a bill allowing marriages between gay couples after a short debate.
Gay couples will now be allowed to marry inside the ACT, regardless of which state they live in.
The bill was back by the Labor and Green parties in the 17-member ACT Legislative Assembly, with the Liberals voting against it.
“There is no longer any excuse, if there ever was, to discriminate against same-sex couples in our community,” ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher told parliament.
“They are our children, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our leaders, our business people, our mentors and our colleagues.”
“More than anything, they are our equals. The Marriage Equality Act puts this fundamental principle and human right into law,” she was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Ms. Gallagher said the first weddings could take place by the end of this year.
The federal government, however, is expected to challenge the move. In 2004 federal law specified that marriage was between a man and a woman.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the local law is inconsistent with the national-level Marriage Act, and will face a legal challenge, according to reports.
“It would be very distressing to individuals who may enter into a ceremony of marriage under the new ACT law, and to their families, to find that their marriages were invalid,” the Attorney-General’s Office said in a statement.
The ACT bill was amended before it was passed to strengthen it against a potential legal challenge.
New Prime Minister Tony Abbott opposes same-sex marriage.
His sister, though, recently disclosed that she is engaged to a female partner.
Both houses of Australia’s national parliament voted down a bill allowing same-sex marriage last year.