Adoption ban off agenda

Adoption ban off agenda

The Federal Government’s anti-gay election wedge in 2004 is unlikely to be repeated this year with adoption and civil unions bans off the immediate agenda, activists claim.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told representatives from the Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) there would not be time to debate and pass the bans before the election is called.

ACE spokesman Rodney Croome said it showed a significant shift from the frequent statements by the Government that blocking overseas adoption by same-sex couples was a high priority.

“People in the community were concerned, so it was a relief and a surprise,” Croome said.

Activists were also concerned the Government would take pre-emptive action to block all same-sex relationship recognition at state level after it twice blocked the ACT’s civil union plans on the grounds they “mimicked marriage”.

While the Howard Government does not endorse the Tasmanian relationship registry, Ruddock has suggested there are no plans to override it or the proposed Victorian scheme.

“But he made it clear that if a state introduced something [like the ACT scheme], he would take action,” Croome said.

That leaves lobbyists with the dilemma of wanting stronger relationship recognition, realistically only achievable under state governments, but not wanting a single state to tip the Federal Government into enacting a countrywide ban.

However, Ruddock struck a somewhat conciliatory stance on overseas marriages.

“His department had denied documentation to Australians attempting to enter into same-sex marriage and civil unions overseas by foreign governments,” Croome said.

But that policy will be reviewed, with Croome suggesting couples eligible for overseas licences write to the Attorney-General.

“At the moment the government seems to be backing off its stated anti-gay policies. Unless there’s a new issue that we don’t know about, it’s less likely there will be an anti-gay wedge this election than there was in 2004.

“There are any number of issues they could use against Labor, or against us, but same-sex couples seems to be neutralised as an issue, maybe because of the HREOC report.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General declined to make further comment on the positions outlined during the July meeting with ACE.

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