Supporters of the ACT’s new civil unions law are hopeful the legislation will stand despite the federal government’s refusal to rule out another challenge.
Members of the ACT’s parliament passed the amended bill on Thursday night after five hours of debate, making the territory the first Australian jurisdiction to approve civil unions laws. The legislation is due to take effect in the next few months.
The ACT government first tried to pass the civil unions bill in March, but had to amend it after the federal government threatened to overrule the bill.
The commonwealth claimed the original bill equated civil unions with marriage and had concerns about plans to use federal marriage celebrants for ACT civil union ceremonies.
The amended ACT bill included a statement that civil unions were not the same as marriage. It also said the ACT would use its own civil union celebrants.
The Civil Union Act still allows same-sex couples from other states and territories to form unions, although these will not be recognised outside the ACT.
A spokesperson for federal attorney general Philip Ruddock said the commonwealth welcomed the ACT’s amendments, but would not rule out a second challenge until it had examined the new law.
Ruddock is overseas and is due to take advice on the legislation after he returns to Australia at the end of the week.
ACT civil union supporters are optimistic the federal government will not intervene a second time.
All of the issues that the federal government raised have been addressed in terms of terms of amendments in the bill, Nerida Cole from ACT gay lobby group Good Process told Sydney Star Observer.
We’re hopeful that they’ll allow it to stand. Of course it’s always uncertain as to just how far they’ll go.
Good Process is encouraging the gay and lesbian community to write to federal MPs asking them to let the civil union law stand.
Meantime, federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch has confirmed plans to introduce a private member’s bill proposing a commonwealth civil unions scheme open to gay couples.
Entsch told SBS TV’s Insight program on Tuesday night his plan had support from several Coalition colleagues. The Queensland MP intends to write to fellow politicians outlining his plans.