conservative prime minister vowed Thursday to block any
legislation by the nation's capital giving gay and lesbian
couples the same rights as married couples. The
Australian Capital Territory, which governs national
capital Canberra, earlier this week became the first
state or territory in the country to introduce legislation
recognizing same-sex unions.
But Prime Minister John Howard and his chief law
enforcer, Atty. Gen. Philip Ruddock, vowed to
block the move. "There is a special place [in]
Australian society for marriage, the institution of
marriage as historically understood, and we do not intend to
allow that in any way to be undermined," Howard told
The ACT's chief minister, Jon Stanhope, has said
the civil unions bill would establish a domestic
relationship separate from marriage under which
same-sex couples would be given the same rights as
heterosexual couples. "Civil union is not a marriage
but will, so far as the law of the ACT is concerned,
be treated in the same way," he said Tuesday, when the
legislation was introduced.
Marriage in Australia is governed by the
Commonwealth Marriage Act, which was amended by the
federal parliament in 2004 to ban same-sex unions.
Howard and Ruddock said the ACT's proposed civil unions
would violate the act by conferring marriage status on
"Let me make it very clear. That will not
satisfy the commonwealth [the federal government], and
we would include the introduction of legislation to
prevent that from occurring," Ruddock said Thursday.
"If they seek to portray civil unions as a marriage, in our
view, that is quite inappropriate. It is quite
misleading; it suggests to people who might be
interested in civil union that what they have is a
marriage, when in fact it is not."
The bill is set to be debated in the ACT
legislature in May. (AP)