The ACT Attorney-General told a rally in support of civil unions on Saturday he would not back down on allowing formal ceremonies for same-sex couples, opposed by the Federal Government.

The disagreement had become a sticking point for ACT independence, despite the Federal Government promising in January not to override the territory’s civil partnerships bill.

“The [ACT] Government will not walk away from the principle that people in a same-sex relationship should be entitled to enter that relationship legally before the law and to do so through a formal ceremony that is recognised by the law,” Attorney-General Simon Corbell told the 100-strong crowd of supporters.

“We should be able to say, if we want to recognise same-sex relationships in this way, and if the democratically elected Assembly chooses to legislate in that way, then that is what the law should be.”

The ACT Government will lobby its Labor Federal colleagues to reform the ACT Self-Government Act to remove federal veto rights, last employed by the Howard Government to overturn the 2005 civil unions bill.

While the veto remains a threat, Corbell said he would continue the negotiations that began with high-ranking officials last month, aiming for a resolution by April and the partnerships with legal ceremonies enacted by the middle of the year.

His colleague, openly gay Cabinet Minister Andrew Barr, told SSO the negotiations had a real chance because the Rudd Government was more cooperative than the Howard Government, which wouldn’t even explain its objections.

Barr, who advised on the original 2005 unions bill, said the federal amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman ensured same-sex civil partnerships were not “like marriage” – a requirement of the national Labor platform.

ACT TO FIX DISCRIMINATORY PARENTING LAWS

Andrew Barr, in his capacity as ACT Industrial Relations Minister, announced to the rally he would fix parental leave laws identified by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission as discriminatory against same-sex couples.

“I’m fast-tracking legislation to address just that issue and should have it in the Assembly by April. That is one of the last areas of ACT law that discriminates against gays and lesbians removed,” Barr said.

“We look forward to the implementation at a Federal level of all the other areas that are beyond the responsibility of the Assembly, things like taxation, superannuation, immigration, a range of areas that we need reform.

“I believe we are entering an exciting era, we will come in from the outer margins of Australian society and into the centre, where we should be. We’re all equals in this city and this country and the law should recognise that.”

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