Australian Christian groups yesterday welcomed a decision by a local territory government to abandon its plans to legalize same-sex civil unions after intervention from Canberra.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government, home to the national capital, wanted to introduce Civil Partnerships Legislation to allow gay couples to hold ceremonies legally recognizing their relationship.
But it was forced to water down the proposal after the center-left Labor government of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday it would override any such legislation on the grounds that such unions would too closely resemble marriage.
The ACT government will now introduce laws under which gay couples can formally register their relationships, but any ceremony will have no legal recognition.
The Australian Christian Lobby group said it was pleased the federal government had got involved.
“We can’t allow marriage to become a political trophy for 2 percent of the population,” head of the group Jim Wallace told the ABC.
Gay rights activists had hoped that the Rudd government would accept the new laws, particularly after its radical amendments to federal legislation last week to remove discrimination against same-sex partnerships in terms of tax, pensions and health entitlements.
“What’s particularly disappointing is that the Rudd government refuses to give a proper explanation for its strident opposition to same-sex marriage except to say that traditionally marriage is between a man and a woman,” Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome said.
“Well, traditionally there was slavery and traditionally women didn’t have the vote. But just because that was the tradition doesn’t mean that change couldn’t occur,” he told the ABC.
The government’s decision has rankled Labor ranks, with some parliamentarians saying the federal administration should not intervene in territory laws.