The ACT Labor Government is hedging its bets as it looks for a way out of a dilemma created by its conflict with the Rudd Government over same-sex unions.
If passed, the Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill would force the Rudd Government to either admit civil unions don’t breach Federal marriage laws, or spark a bitter Labor vs Labor territory war by having the proposed law overturned.
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury introduced the wedge last week, 12 months after the original civil partnership laws were passed.
He argued there was no risk of the original relationship recognition scheme being overturned since the six-month window for Commonwealth intervention had passed.
“Couples entering into civil partnerships are making one of life’s biggest commitments. The Greens believe that entry into a civil partnership deserves more than a simple registry process involving making an application on the papers,” he told the Legislative Assembly.
“The current operation of legislation means that a ceremony does not have legal effect. Rather, it is the decision of the registrar-general back in the office that marks the commencement of the partnership. Civil partnerships deserve more and this bill delivers that in the form of legally recognised ceremonies.”
The problem for the ACT Labor Government is that the bill is also ACT Labor policy, albeit ideological policy it has decided to strategically not advance to avoid further conflicts with the Rudd Government. At risk are millions of dollars in infrastructure funding to a safe Labor territory.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell and Education, Industrial Relations and Sport Minister Andrew Barr have been cautious not to indicate which way the ACT Government will vote when debate resumes later this month.
Barr said even though he is gay andplanning his own civil partnership later this year, if the cabinet agreed to vote the bill down, he would not cross the floor.
The Federal Attorney-General’s office declined to publicly justify its objection to civil unions when invited to do so by Southern Star or indicate how the Rudd Government would respond if a state passed such a scheme, instead of a territory. The Federal Government would require the backing of either the Parliament or the High Court if it wanted a state scheme overturned.
Last week the Tasmanian Labor Government told gay activists it was not interested in passing same-sex marriage laws.