The Rudd Government’s approach to same-sex civil unions proposed by the ACT Government has turned out to be consistent: consistently hypocritical. This article explains the background, just as the ACT’s watered-down legislation is about to be debated.

The Rudd Government and same-sex rights: consistent hypocrisy

7 May 08:

The Rudd Government has introduced legislation into Federal Parliament which will have the effect of removing same-sex discrimination from numerous Commonwealth laws.

CLA applauds the government for this long-overdue move to end unacceptable discrimination against same-sex couples in areas such as health care, tax, superannuation, welfare and veteran’s affairs, as well as in such matters as legal spousal privilege.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in a media release, emphasised that ‘the Rudd Government is delivering on its election commitment to remove discrimination against people in same-sex relationships from a wide range of Commonwealth laws and programs’.

Just three days later, Mr McClelland indicated he would use the Commonwealth’s veto power to over-ride any laws introduced in the ACT allowing civil partnerships, and, in particular, any moves for legally-recognised ceremonies for same-sex couples.

In 2006 the Howard Government quashed the Civil Partnerships Bill 2006 (ACT), the first ACT legislation allowing civil unions. Federal Labor indicated at the time, both in Senate debate and the media, and again in December 2007, that it would not interfere in Territory law-making and that same-sex unions were a matter for the States and Territories.

The recent decision to oppose the introduction of  proposed ACT civil union legislation reveals a hypocritical and contradictory position.

As a result of the Rudd Government’s intention to veto the legislation, the ACT Government has been forced to revise its planned legislation. The amended bill is similar to the existing Tasmanian and Victorian registration models; however, it also proposes administrative ceremonies, though such ceremonies will not be legally recognised. The bill was due for debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 8 May.

The Rudd Government’s intention of amending about 100 pieces of discriminatory Commonwealth legislation was to ensure equality under Australian law for same-sex couples.  The latest move, to block the ACT civil union proposals, runs contrary to both the commitment of Prime Minister Rudd to allow true self-government in the Territories and, perhaps more fundamentally, contradicts the principle of equality under the law.

Indeed, until there is full legal equality for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersex (GLBTI) community (including same-sex marriage), discrimination and prejudice faced by same-sex couples will continue under Australian law to the detriment of justice and their enjoying fundamental human rights and civil liberties to be themselves

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