The Australian Capital Territory has given in to federal government pressure by removing any reference to marriage in its Civil Unions Bill.

ACT leader Jon Stanhope is expected to announce a series of changes to the planned legislation, including a separate civil celebrant register instead of using commonwealth law, and a paragraph stating that it’s not a marriage.

A spokesman for Mr Stanhope told the Sydney Star Observer, “We won’t be attempting to use the commonwealth’s [register] any more because obviously that’s not going to fly.

“They’ve made it quite clear that they don’t want the ACT to use their celebrants.

“There’s probably going to be some sort of playing with the language at some level to try and meet some of the concerns of the commonwealth.”

But a spokesperson for the federal government’s attorney general, Philip Ruddock, said there were still reservations, “Based on what they have said so far, there are still reservations … because it’s not necessarily avoiding confusion between civil unions and marriage.”

The ACT government which includes areas such as the Australian capital, Canberra, expect the new bill to pass and possibly take effect in June if there is no outside interference.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard has vowed to block the law, he views the ACT plans as a threat to 2004 federal legislation which defines marriage as a union between man and woman, he said: “We will always seek to remove areas of discrimination against homosexuals but there is a special place in Australian society for the institution of marriage as historically understood and we do not intend to allow that to be in any way undermined.”