By Gudrun Schultz and Steve Jalsevac

CANBERRA, Australia, March 28, 2006 ( – Australia’s Capital Territory will pass legislation allowing same-sex civil unions, the first territory in Australia to do so.

Under the new law, homosexual couples will have all the rights given to men and women in heterosexual marriages. Gay unions will be granted a “functional equality” to couples in traditional marriages, but not the title.

The ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope insists the law is not an attack on traditional marriage, since gay couples will not be officially married.

“The civil union scheme…which we propose to pass in the ACT will essentially create domestic relationships,” he told ABC radio.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said last December that Australia would not bring in civil unions for same-sex couples.

“I believe very strongly that marriage is exclusively a union for life of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others,” Mr. Howard said, as reported by the Australian Associated Press. “That’s the common understanding of marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I would be opposed to the recognition of civil unions.”

Australian lawmakers voted to amend the Marriage Act in August 2004 to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and woman exclusively.

Mr. Stanhope said the ACT recognized that the states and territories could not legislate for actual “marriage” between gay couples, but “a civil union is not a marriage.”

Canada’s Conservative Party leadership, although opposed to same-sex ‘marriage’, has proposed a semantic alternative of granting to persons in same-sex unions “the same rights and benefits and obligations as married persons.” Should the Conservatives succeed in overturning the same-sex ‘marriage law passed under the previous Liberal regime, it appears the net result will likely only be a change of name from ‘marriage’ to ‘civil unions’ for homosexual couples who would continue to enjoy full marriage rights as in Australia’s Capital Territory.Â

See related LifeSiteNews coverage:

Australian PM Howard Says Gay Unions Out of Question