Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another go at equality in Canberra

The ACT Legislative Assembly has just passed a civil union law, amending its existing civil partnerships legislation to permit public ceremonies. There's some history here - in 2006 and 2007 civil union laws were repeatedly vetoed by the Howard Government on the basis that allowing public ceremonies (rather than filling out a form and making a declaration in a registry office) would "mimic marriage". The message was clear: gay couples should stay in the legislative closet, and keep out of sight (and out of mind) of decent straight folk.

The new law gives the finger to that idea, reinstating public ceremonies and establishing a separate system of civil partnership notaries. Oddly, however, the ceremonies are limited solely to same-sex couples - ensuring same- and opposite-sex couples use different laws apparently being a cornerstone of Australian bigot politics. Even this may not be enough to avoid a federal veto - the Australian Labour Party voted just three months ago to uphold Howard's ban on gay marriage, and Kevin Rudd personally opposes equality. its unclear yet whether there will be a veto - but given the hostility of the ALP to gay rights, I would not be surprised.