Current Affairs

ACT awakens gay union debate

Marc Shoffman December 12, 2006
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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has proposed a new gay unions law after the Federal Government overruled legislation it introduced earlier this year.

The ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell presented the Civil Partnerships Bill 2006 into the Legislative Assembly this week.

It replaces the Civil Unions Act 2006, which was disallowed by the Governor-General on 13th June 2006, claiming that it would be against the Federal Marriage Act as it is too similar to marriage and fails to take heed of the government’s concerns.

“The Government is fully committed to this legislation,” Mr Corbell said. “The Government does not accept that it is somehow satisfactory to discriminate against one part of society, and as a result has introduced the new Civil Partnerships Bill in the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

“The Government can see no grounds for refusing recognition to same-sex relationships, or for refusing couples in any relationship the opportunity to enjoy functional legal equality with married couples under ACT law.”

Mr Corbell said the new Civil Partnerships Bill was in some ways similar to the disallowed Civil Unions Act 2006, but with modifications designed to address the concerns expressed by the Commonwealth Government.

“Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, the term ‘civil partnership’ has been used in preference to ‘civil union’,” he said.

“The term ‘civil partnership’ is used to avoid using the language of marriage.

The old common law formulation of marriage, which the Commonwealth incorporated into the Marriage Act 1961 in 2004, is that marriage is ‘the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. A civil partnership is not a marriage, and the use of ‘partnership’ instead of ‘union’ highlights this difference.

“The new Civil Partnerships Bill also does not contain the provision that the Commonwealth apparently found to be so unacceptable, that said a civil union was to be treated in the same way as marriage under ACT law. Instead, the Civil Partnerships Bill provides that a civil partnership is a domestic partnership, a concept already well-established in Territory law.

“The Government remains committed to a policy that it went to the electors with in the 2004 election, and that policy is to legislate for two people, regardless of their gender, to enter into a legally recognised relationship. Canberrans in same sex relationships are entitled to have the same rights under the law as other members of the community.”

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