The attorney-general of Australia has confirmed that the federal government will block plans by one of the country’s territories to legalise same-sex civil partnerships.

Philip Ruddock said that the traditional marriage ceremony would be threatened by granting marital rights to gay people, an argument used repeatedly by Liberal party politicians.

He also said that as under 18s would be allowed to have civil partnerships with parental consent, the Australian Capital Territory law would be a threat to minors.

In June 2006 the ACT government brought forward legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples the right to civil unions.

The federal government vetoed the bill, and the ACT attorney-general Simon Corbell made changes to try to make the legislation more acceptable to them, including replacing the term ‘civil partnership’ instead of ‘civil union.’

Yesterday Mr Ruddock announced:

“I indicated that while a number of changes had been made there still remained significant issues that likened the civil unions to marriage that the Commonwealth [of Australia] found unacceptable,” according to adelaidenow.com

Simon Corbell attacked the federal decision to veto the bill for a second time.

“It just beggars belief that we have a Commonwealth Government that really isn’t able to give any substantive argument and just says, ‘well we think it offends the institution of marriage,’ well, what does that mean?” he told ABC Radio.

2007 is an election year in Australia, and the Liberal government of John Howard want to win a fifth term in office.

They have effectively used gay rights as a wedge issue in previous elections, using it to energise the votes of conservative and Christian Australians.

The old common law formulation of marriage, which the Howard government incorporated into the Marriage Act in 2004, is that marriage is “the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

All Australian states and territories grant some rights to same-sex partners.

A survey in June 2006 by ACNielsen/Age found that 45% of Australians supported the recently quashed ACT law, while 34% opposed it.

56% of 19 to 39 year olds pledged support, compared to 48% of 40 to 53 year olds and 29% of people over 55.