Capital Territory has become the first jurisdiction Down
Under to legislate same-sex civil unions. The ACT
legislative assembly on Thursday night passed an act
legalizing same-sex civil unions, making it clear that
there is a difference between marriage and civil unions.
The federal government, which holds veto power
over ACT legislation, had threatened to overrule the
act if it passed in its original form, alleging that
it sought to portray civil unions as marriages.
But ACT attorney general Simon Corbell
explained, "We accept that a civil union is not
marriage--you cannot conduct a same-sex marriage under
the marriage act--but we are legislating for a civil
union between people who are in a same-sex
relationship, and we are giving them the same rights
and the same recognition under ACT law as people who are
married. It is not the same as marriage, but it will
be treated, for the purposes of ACT law, in the same
way a married relationship is."
The federal government also objected to the
recognition of overseas same-sex marriages and, under
pressure from religious conservatives, asked that the
age of consent be raised from 16 to 18. To meet those
objections, the act recognizes all overseas same-sex unions
and requires people under 18 to obtain parental
consent and a court order before entering a civil union.
Federal attorney general Philip Ruddock says
he's waiting to see the details of the bill--as
well as advice from his officials--before deciding
whether to block it. (Sirius OutQ News)