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6 May 2008

australian capital abandons gay union laws due to federal intervention

The Australian Capital Territory's hopes of being the first state to legally recognise same-sex civil union ceremonies have been snuffed out after the Rudd Government announced on Sunday that it would override the planned laws despite earlier promises that it would not use it powers to do so.

The ACT Labor Government has reportedly been forced to dump plans to legally recognise same-sex civil union ceremonies after the Federal Government refused to support the planned laws, according to media reports.

Following Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's threat to use Commonwealth powers - as the former PM had done - to override laws that will legally recognise same-sex civil union ceremonies should they be passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly, the self-governing territory will now move to legalise civil partnerships (without ceremony).
This is despite the fact that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had said last December that he would not use Commonwealth powers - as the former PM had done - to override same-sex marriage laws passed by states and territories. The laws were to be similar to those the territory passed in its 2006 Civil Partnerships Bill that were disallowed by the Howard government.

"On these matters, state and territories are answerable to their own jurisdictions. State and territory governments are elected to govern, they are accountable to their constituents," PM Rudd said then.

The federal government says it believes such ceremonies would mimic marriage and therefore undermine the Marriage Act.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, who was advised by the Federal government that it would override the laws if passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly, read the statement for not supporting the proposed laws as pandering to the "extreme Christian Right."

He told ABC Radio: "My view of that is they have been beholden to the extreme right of the Christian lobby in Australia.

"They feel that it's more important to satisfy their views than accept that the ACT is self-governing and has the right to make these laws for itself."

Describing the Rudd Government's position as "hypocritical" and "appalling," ACT's Chief Minister Jon Stanhope disagreed that allowing gay couples to be married would diminish heterosexual marriages.

"I don't believe for one minute that by recognising gay and lesbian relationships under the law, we are in any way diminishing marriage," he told the The Canberra Times. "It's my 36th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Recognising the loving relationship of [Labor MLA] Andrew Barr does not diminish my marriage one iota and I challenge anybody to suggest it does."

A leading gay rights group said the federal government had failed to give a clear explanation for its strident opposition to same-sex marriage except to say marriage was traditionally between a man and a woman.

"Well, traditionally there was slavery and traditionally women didn't have the vote. But just because that was the tradition doesn't mean that change couldn't occur," Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome told ABC Radio.

Following the Federal government's move, Corbell said that the self-governing territory will now move to legalise civil partnerships (without ceremony) so that children being raised by gay couples would be considered dependents of both adults for tax and unemployment benefits, and same-sex couples would be treated as a family unit for tax, welfare and pension purposes.

In April, the Australian federal government announced plans to amend about 100 federal laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples. The proposed legislation, which is expected to be implemented by mid-2009, will not recognise same-sex marriages.

Only same-sex couples in the states of Victoria and Tasmania have access to some rights as conventionally married heterosexual couples by proving that a relationship exists through a registry. In other states, same-sex and de facto couples often must go to court to prove a relationship exists to access rights accorded to them under the law.



1. 2008-05-06 20:20  
My partner and I - 29 years together - enthusiastically supported Labour's election after the dark Howard years. So how am I feeling about Rudd's back-flip? Jilted! And definitely not happy. Forget the demands for 'marriage'; do the frocks and flowers thing in your own time. We need an uncomplicated 'civil union' legalisation which gives gay men and women total legal equality. Demands for 'marriage' are a kitsch distraction. Let's keep it real!
2. 2008-05-06 22:44  
One of the maion reason i voted for and helped elect the Rudd labor government was for the simple fact that he said that he would not intervene in the ACT governments right to enact these laws,,, Rudd you are no better than any of the other main stream politicians.. you would bend over backward ad back flip time aftre time to get votes from the christian extreme lobbyist! I can promise that every gay man or woman in australia will vote against you in the next election...1 term mr Rudd, thats all you will get!
3. 2008-05-06 22:45  
The Rudd Govt is a breathe of fresh air for the gay and lesbian community in Australia. There is now much greater hope. Lets hope they can deliver a large number of small changes that will make lives more comfortable and equitable. The amendment of large no of federal laws is well over due and we should be happy and welcome these as significant progress assuming that the changes do take place. Lets ensure that we are reasonable in what we ask for.. after all i for one don't want a heterosexual life as i am not straight - but i want to live with the freedom to love my partner and get respect from people for that love.
4. 2008-05-06 22:46  
Well, the politically-minded pontiff is planning an Oz visit shortly.

Maybe right now just too sensitive a time, but it's inevitable social progress in the long run, just like every other social injustice that's so far been addressed in the past few hundred years.

Having a legal ceremony is a fantastic experience seriously underlining a lifetime commitment, which you'd think governments everywhere would want to encourage. But as you say, if you get legal equality, you can organise your own religious or secular ceremony or blessing if you want one, though I personally don't think it would feel the same.
6. 2008-05-07 01:18  
the rudd govt is indeed a breathe of fresh air for the gay and lesbian community in aussie. count your blessing since there is no such politician such as TLA appear in aussie.

leftie, pray hard that the extreme christian right will have their eyes opened and a change of mindset, otherwise they can be easily used by the evil spirit, just like the pharisee named saul in the bible.
7. 2008-05-07 07:22  
Legal recognition of our relationships will come in due course. We need to take baby steps with all this. First amending the 58 pieces of Federal legislation that discriminates against us gays - which the federal Attorney and Rudd have promised will be passed in the winter sitting. Then we can get the State Governments to allow recognition of relationships through civil unions registers. I will be happy for us to be classed under the de-facto relationship status. I truly don't see the need for a ceremony that mimmics the straight tradition of marriage.
8. 2008-05-07 08:57  
Equal Rights and Equal Choices. The same HUMAN RIGHTS heteros are automatically given on a silver platter, then take for granted and abuse are what us queers are asking/fighting/campaigning and dying for, and have been denied for millenia. I lived in the USA during a time and in a place where BLACK PEOPLE were not allowed to stay overnight in my small town. There were no black kids in any of my schools. That was not very long ago!! Changes DID happen...and changes in OUR QUEER FAVOR will also happen even in the worst of places on this earth.
9. 2008-05-07 12:44  
What sort of labour government is this?! Since when do they listen to the Christian right?
10. 2008-05-07 14:01  
equal rights rudd thats why i voted for you.well in 4 years you may get a johnny right back at ya.
11. 2008-05-07 23:47  
When the mayor of San Francisco legalized queer marriage (a move that was later struck down by the State of California) queers flocked to City Hall by the thousands to enact civil marriage ceremonies--it went on for several days. I personally know several hetero couples who were so inspired by the queer marriages that they decided to formally renew their own wedding vows. Allowing queers the right to marry will strengthen the institution for everyone, not undermine it, just as affording all minorities equal treatment under the law strengthens our societies and elevates our humanity.
12. 2008-05-08 18:12  
the concept of marriage for either straight or gay couples is outdated and unnecessary, as long as the rights of the individual are protected. Have what ever ceremony you want to celebrate its of no importance in a true and loving relationship. I have lived with the same partner for more than 30 years , most of the time in a parts of Australia where gay partnership has been accepted for al long as i can remember, the law has no meaning to the real love of another





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