Gay rights advocates in Australia have asked the country’s Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, explain why same-sex couples in the ACT (Australia Capital Territory) should not be allowed to officially solemnise their unions.

Responding to the ACT government’s renewed commitment to its civil partnership law, Mr McClelland yesterday said the ceremonial aspects of the ACT model are “inappropriate.”

“Mr McClelland is effectively saying that while loving, committed same-sex partners can have legal entitlements, they’re not worthy of the official, public recognition available to heterosexual couples”, said the Australian Coalition for Equality’s Rodney Croome.

“By declaring public recognition off limits the Federal Government is building same-sex couples a new legal closet.”

Mr Croome said the Tasmanian registry model preferred by Mr McClelland works well in Tasmania, but added it was “anti-federalist” to expect all the states and territories to follow exactly the same path.

“Consistency between the states is a fine ideal, but consistency doesn’t have to mean conformity.”

“The people of the ACT should be free to enact their own laws, just as the people of Tasmania did when their registry was created.”

ACT Liberal party Senator Gary Humphries attacked the Labour government’s position on the issue.

“They wanted to get gay people to believe they were on their side, but now that it comes down to making a real decision, they no longer seem to be on that side and think there are more votes to be lost by supporting such legislation.”