Volume 1, Issue 6 (Originally Published on 1 April 2012)
Bovine and others v The Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries (2012) 322 CLR 507
The High Court has ruled that a statute that allows marriage licences to be granted to domesticated animals in Queensland is constitutionally valid. The Domestic Animal Marital Act 2012 (Qld) (the Act) was pushed through the Queensland Parliament following the election success of the local conservative government. The newly appointed Minister said in the second reading speech that the Act would protect citizens from consuming the illegitimate offspring of unwedded animals. The Act grants power to specially appointed celebrants to conduct mass ceremonies on farm animals before they reproduce.
The appellants, representing numerous dairy and meat industry shareholders and executives, argued that the power to make laws under s 51(xxi) of the Constitution was limited to human citizens. In the factual scenario ascertained by the lower courts, it was found the industries would suffer enormous losses following the rigorous requirements of the Act. Schedule 3 requires that any animal that engaged in unlawful conduct would be subject to immediate destruction. Unlawful conduct is detailed in ss 25–47 of the Act, including prohibitions on multiple partners (s 32) and same-sex coupling. Divorce procedures are detailed in ss 112–125 of the Act.
The appellants further contended that the cost of buying wedding bands for tens of thousands of livestock as required by s 73 was an insurmountable burden on their ability to conduct business.
Gummow J and Hayne J delivered violently opposed judgements. Gummow J interpreted the word 'marriage' in s 51(xxi) by referring to an issue of Good Housekeeping magazine from Christmas 1942 which he found in his great aunt's garage. The rest of the court delivered a joint judgement; following the decisions in Wagon Mound I and II and a case decided in the Peruvian Magistrate's Court in which a drunk grandfather alleged a common intention constructive trust against his own foot. French CJ did not deliver a decision as he was attending an exclusive preview of Titanic in 3D.