By Patrick B. Craine
CANBERRA, Australia, November 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has legalized civil partnership ceremonies for homosexuals.
Same-sex couples in the ACT have been able to register their union since last year, but were not permitted a ceremony.
The legislature of the territory, where the nation's parliament is located, passed the bill on Wednesday, following an amendment banning opposite-sex couples from obtaining the civil unions. The bill was moved by the ACT's Greens party.
The ACT's amendment was passed so as to satisfy federal requirements that such unions not mimic marriage.
“We understand that this is not same-sex marriage,” said Shane Rattenbury, the Greens member who drafted the bill. “This legislation is another step along the road to full equality for same-sex couples in Australia, and we are delighted that the assembly has passed it today.”
The federal Commonwealth Parliament, which has the power to override legislation passed in the country's two territories, has strongly opposed same-sex “marriage,” and the ACT legislature has been fighting with them for same-sex civil unions since 2006.
That year, the ACT passed legislation approving same-sex civil unions, but their attempt was struck down by then-Governor General Michael Jeffery on the advice of then-Attorney General Philip Ruddock.
The law would have effectively granted same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples, simply leaving out the term “marriage.” At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard said the ACT's move sought to undermine the nation's 2004 Marriage Amendment Bill, which established marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and specifically excluded same-sex “marriage.”
Regarding the current bill, one member of the ACT's legislature, Vicki Dunne, who serves as shadow attorney-general, predicted that the federal government would stop the bill. “It is almost certain the Commonwealth will intervene,” she told the Telegraph. “It still sounds like a marriage and it still feels like a marriage and therefore it probably is a marriage.”
Last year, the federal government granted new legal and financial benefits to same-sex couples by making changes to about 100 federal laws. Nevertheless, they continued to declare their intention to uphold the true definition of marriage.
“The government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman so it won't amend the marriage act,” said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Australia's Senate has now initiated an inquiry into the Marriage Amendment Bill, however, hearing arguments this week both for and against same-sex “marriage.” The submissions the committee received, totalling more than 20,000, were against same-sex “marriage” by a ratio of two to one.
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