The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Thursday introduced a bill which seeks to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples in the territory.

The government received a standing ovation from the Assembly's public gallery in introducing its Marriage Equality Bill.

“The ACT will be the first Australian community to move towards acknowledging all relationships equally, catching up with our nearest neighbor, New Zealand,” Ivan Hinton of Australian Marriage Equality told

The ACT's largest city, Canberra, serves as the nation's capital. Laws approved in Australia's smallest self-governing internal territory, which in 1994 became the first jurisdiction to legally acknowledge gay couples, can be overridden by the federal government.

Tony Abbott, Australia's newly elected prime minister, threatened to do just that on Thursday.

Abbott told reporters that he was seeking advice on “precisely how far the ACT can go on this.”

“The ACT is entitled to do what it can within the law,” Abbott told reporters.

In 2006, the federal government intervened to repeal a civil unions law approved by ACT lawmakers.

ACT lawmakers are expected to debate and approve the marriage bill next month.