The ACT Government is calling on its state counterparts to defy the Prime Minister and legislate for same-sex ceremonies after it was browbeaten into dropping them from its proposed partnership scheme.

Same-sex couples in the ACT later this year will have access to a relationship register comparable to those operating in Victoria and Tasmania, but NSW couples will not be able to take advantage of the scheme unless one partner is a Territory resident.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell blamed Kevin Rudd for watering down the Territory’s preferred scheme after the Prime Minister’s office threatened to veto the original plans, which Rudd had called an effective amendment of the Marriage Act.

It’s hypocritical and a position that I’m completely unable to understand. I am angry and disappointed, as is the ACT Government, Corbell told Sydney Star Observer.

It’s a 180-degree reversal from the Prime Minister’s position in December, and the position Federal Labor took in the Senate when the Howard Government overturned our civil union law in 2006.

Corbell will amend the bill already before the ACT Legislative Assembly to remove official ceremonies and pass it before the October Territory election.

Our scheme is now broadly consistent with Tasmania and Victoria. If anything it’s now incumbent on those and other states to make provision for ceremonies in the same way we are through administrative means, he said.

Gay ACT MP Andrew Barr has endorsed the administrative ceremony alternative by indicating his intention of joining the register with his partner Anthony.

He said the fight for full legal equality would go on for years and while this partnership scheme was a step forward, he had never been more disappointed with the Federal Labor Party.

It seems gay and lesbian people are tolerated, and perhaps even accepted, by the Federal Government but we have not been embraced as full citizens in this country, he said.

Corbell called on the states to achieve for gay and lesbian people what the Territory was legally unable to do.

I would always encourage my colleagues in the states to go further and legislate civil partnership schemes along the lines of the original ACT bill to provide true equality for gay and lesbian people, because that’s the only way we’re going to break this impasse, he said.

As soon as a state legislates that way, the Commonwealth won’t be able to do anything about it. I can’t see it happening in NSW, but maybe one of the others.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland welcomed the ACT as the third jurisdiction to implement a relationship register this week and called for the remaining states to follow.

ACT activist group Campaign for Civil Unions will hold a protest rally against the Territory’s backdown this Saturday, 1pm, at the Legislative Assembly.

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