Despite an earlier pledge not to veto the ACT’s civil unions even if a compromise couldn’t be found, the Federal Labor Party seems to be tightening the screws on Jon Stanhope’s territory government yet again as the deadline approaches.

Having not only demanded the scheme deny same-sex couples the respect that comes from a legally recognised ceremony, but having also called for non-ACT residents to be banned from the scheme, Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland refused to rule out just such a veto while speaking to The Australian newspaper last week.

Whether this is just harmless sabre-rattling designed to appeal to the Christian Right or a real threat of action remains to be seen. But it’s all the more disappointing when the original pledge against a veto came from PM Kevin Rudd himself.

Short of convincing the other states to refuse to recognise such unions, or refusing to recognise them for Federal purposes themselves, there don’t seem to be any threats left in the basket for the Government to reach for.

Both sides seem determined not to blink first and, with a majority of Canberrans fully behind their Chief Minister, there seems little reason for Stanhope to back down or make concessions. On the contrary, Stanhope recently sweetened the deal by announcing plans to give gay couples equal access to parental leave -“ which would have been the only remaining discrimination under ACT law once civil unions were enacted.

And despite both the Government and Federal Opposition opposing the scheme, there will still be dissent in the Parliament if a veto does emerge. Both the ACT’s Federal Senators (Labor’s Kate Lundy and the Liberals’ Gary Humphries) have pledged to support their territory’s right to make its own laws without interference and others in the Government would find it hard not to break ranks. The Greens (and outgoing Democrats, assuming the vote came before the June changeover) are sure to oppose a veto as well.

Perhaps if the Government was showing equal zeal in pursuing those states that have so far refused to sign on to the relationship registries that were supposed to placate us (like our own State Labor Government), it wouldn’t be so unseemly, but even compromise-minded GLBT voters who voted for Rudd at the last election must be feeling uncomfortable now. Another veto will not go down well with GLBT Australia and our friends and family.

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