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First Australian gay weddings held in capital city

BY ROD MCGUIRK
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CANBERRA, Australia -- Gay and lesbian couples from around Australia joined in fragile marriages in Canberra on Saturday under the nation's beleaguered same-sex union laws that face a challenge in the courts within a week.

The hastily-arranged ceremonies held under blue summer skies were bitter-sweet occasions for some couples who realize the High Court could annul their unions on Thursday.

The federal government has challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory's fledgling law that had made gay marriage legal in Canberra and its surrounds from Saturday.

Bills to change federal law to allow gay marriage were twice rejected by Parliament last year, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected in September on a platform of opposing marriage equality.

Some marriage equality advocates feared that the High Court would block same-sex wedding from Tuesday when it heard the challenge. But no orders were made to impede weekend ceremonies.

If the law survives the High court challenge next week, the Federal Parliament could then overturn it with legislation that would ignite a divisive and bitter debate about human and state rights.

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