The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Tuesday approved a gay marriage bill, making it Australia's first jurisdiction to do so.

“There is no longer any excuse, if there ever was, to discriminate against same-sex couples in our community,” Katy Gallagher, chief minister of the ACT, told lawmakers. “They are our children, our parents, our brothers, our sisters, 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 added.

Gay and lesbian couples in the territory could marry as early as December.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose conservative Liberal-National coalition swept into power on September 7 on a pledge to lower taxes, warned last month that the federal government would mount a High Court challenge to the legislation.

New South Wales (NSW) is also debating legalizing gay nuptials.

(Related: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's gay sister engaged to marry.)