Rudd rejects civil unions

Rudd rejects civil unions

A key proposal from the Australia 2020 Summit that civil unions be offered to same-sex couples has been officially rejected by the Rudd Government.

The Government’s response equated the proposal with same-sex marriage equality, saying the no gay unions policy reflects the widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But the Government confirmed it still intends to recognise and support same-sex families through its community and social inclusion strategies, and convince NSW, QLD, SA, WA and NT to implement relationship registers.

One step towards eliminating discrimination against same-sex couples is for their relationships to be legally recognised, the response states.

As part of the Government’s same-sex law reforms, registered relationships will also be recognised in many Commonwealth laws to provide a more consistent approach to the recognition of relationships.

National PFLAG spokeswoman Shelley Argent was a part of the summit branch that recommended civil unions.

Regardless of what type of relationship recognition it is, we need uniformity across the country so the confusion is taken away when a couple go from one state to another, Argent told SSO.

But we’re being totally ignored by the [Queensland] Bligh Government.

Australian Marriage Equality advocates disputed the Government’s claim that marriage discrimination was strongly supported.

Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage, making a nonsense of the Government’s stated belief that its policy -˜reflects a widely held view in the community’, AME spokesman Peter Furness said.

The Rudd Government has shown that its vision for the future is blinkered by prejudices from the past.

Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam said there were some positive aspects to the Government’s response, such as support for gay and lesbian families.

Human rights advocates including Amnesty International were disappointed there will be no non-discriminatory clause in the Australian Constitution, a proposal that had received wide support at the summit so it could be enforceable by the High Court.

The Government rejected that idea also, saying the National Human Rights Consultation had been charged to come up with a non-constitutional proposal, such as a human rights act or charter.

[T]he Government has made it clear that any proposals must preserve the sovereignty of Parliament, its report stated.

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71 responses to “Rudd rejects civil unions”

  1. I’m glad you posted that Baz because that’s my understanding too. I just didn’t know why this constitutional question was coming up.

    I believe it’s a very simple change – reversal of Howard’s change plus adding same sex – to legalise same-sex marriage. The problem is the lack of backbone and the homophobia (using religion as the excuse implied or not) of many of our state and federal politicians.

  2. James wrote “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Put it to the people and let them decide. You (or I) may agree or disagree with the result but at least the people will have spoken.”

    I’ll quote from another forum discussing this:

    “What if the majority of people thought that torture should legal or that we should be able to own slaves or that the Islamic faith should be outlawed? Do you believe that the government should enact those laws just because the -œmajority believed it? Of course not. The role of government is to govern for the whole of the country not the majority. If your rule held true then in Australia women would not have the vote, Aboriginals would still be second class non-citizens, sexual discrimination would be allowed, the White Australia policy would still rule, etc etc etc. Each step of cultural growth and maturity in every society has resulted from a Government doing the opposite of what the majority wants. The role of government is to lead and to govern not to pander to ignorance.

    If it is true that the majority is opposed to gay marriage (and I don’t concede that), then the majority is wrong. Just like it was wrong when blacks could not marry whites and when women were barred from the holding public office. If you are right that the majority of Australians are opposed to gay marriage then shame on my fellow country men and women but even more shame on Kevin Rudd for allowing narrow minded bigotry to rule his leadership.

    There is no rationale argument for denying two people the right to commit their lives to each other.”

  3. Thanks, Ben & Shayne for the info.

    As for marriage being a religious issue or function: a priest, iman, rabbi or whoever must be licensed by the federal government to perform legally-recognised marriages.

    The marriage certificate issued by churches etc are not legal documents but merely mementoes of the ceremony. Only the official marriage certificate issued by the various state departments is legal proof of marriage.

  4. Dunno where Chillisauce is getting his info from but it’s wrong! The laws governing marriage in Australia are under the Marriage Act 1961, amended by John Howard’s government in August 2004 to specifically exclude same sex couples. It has nothing to do with the constitution. Howard’s changes were supported by the ALP at the time.

  5. Ronson:

    Shayne is basically right re legal and financial entitlements – and state things were done here in NSW years ago under Carr.

    Occupational superannuation (the compuslory 9%) is covered by a Federal Act, so that is okay too.

    So, the legal and financials are okay…the argument now is over how formal recognition takes place.

  6. “gay marriage, which is a church issue” – um, no it’s not.

    – In Australia we have a separation of church & state.
    – In Australia you can married in a government registry office.
    – In Australia, recent figures have been released to show that there are now more non-religious marriages being performed than religious marriages & the trend is continuing.
    – In Australia don’t forget that there are actually a number of churches/religions who WANT to perform same sex marriages, but are BANNED from doing so by KRudds continued 2004 Marriage Ban. If they defy the ban they risk losing thier celebrants licence.
    – In Australia, marriage is a government funtion, not a church function. Remove the ban, & open the flood gates for 1. recognition of marriages performed overseas, and 2. challenge the discrimination & reform Australian Marriage.

  7. Ronson, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Report identified 58 laws to be amended to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in the area of federal financial and work-related entitlements. The Commonwealth govt. went on to find a total of 100 amendments in areas such as Employment, Workers’ Compensation, Taxation, Social Security, Veterans’ Entitlements, Health Care Costs, Family Law, Superannuation, Aged Care and Migration. Federal, not state functions.

    Attorney-General Robert McClelland said, “The reforms in this bill will make a practical difference to the lives of a group of fellow Australians, who for far too long have suffered discrimination in superannuation at a Commonwealth level.”

    In 2004, the Federal Government passed their Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Choice of Superannuation Funds) Act which allowed same-sex couples to nominate their partner as an ‘interdependent’, thereby making them eligible to receive superannuation entitlements tax-free, although I understand that there were exclusions for public servants. If your super fund refuses to recognise the beneficiary of your choice, change your fund.

    The reforms reflected the fact that diversity of sexuality and gender identity are part of our community. For me, I celebrate that we now have our rights without the need to assimilate with the mainstream hetero culture. If I was in a long term relationship, I would consider THAT a gay marriage, without the need to have it dressed up as a straight one. I like being gay, I enjoy our differences to the straighties and whether the service is performed by a celebrant or the church, I find such an anachronistic relic about as appealing as a night with Malcolm Turnbull or a nasty case of rubella. But I will come to the reception so long as you don’t serve passionfruit pavlova, play ABBA or read any corny telegram jokes.

  8. Shayne,

    The federal government did make a lot of changes to federal law, but note it’s federal law, not state, and it doesn’t apply to a lot of things such as non-federal government superannuation. With superannuation, it’s up the company whether they discriminate or not – there’s no law which says they have to recognise same-sex couples.

    And I would be surprised if the federal law covered all the things you mentioned as many of them are state functions.

    Changes to the marriage act to allow same-sex marriage would automatically change things so that all couples, same-sex or straight, had the same rights.

  9. It is clear that Kevin Rudd doesn’t have the courage and the empathy to introduce same-sex marriage. He is a typical politicians, who follows the majority voters.

    To do the right thing, some times politicians need to be true leaders. A leader can shape peoples’ opinion to bring a positive change in the society.

    Anyway, I personally don’t think unless we can create mass public support for same-sex marriage, our politicians will ever introduce same-sex marriage. Our constitution upholds equal rights for all citizens. The LGBT people cannnot have the equal rights as straight people unless our relationships are also recognized by the state. So we have a case. May be we can take it to the High Court and seek court’s direction to the government to ammend laws to uphold our constitutional rights.

  10. Civil unions are last century (for example Vermont was the first country to have them, no they have been “updated” or “upgraded” to marriage. Connecticut is another one that did the same thing, Sweden, Iceland and Norways also got rid of their registered partnership laws and fully replaced them with “genderless referencing” or “equal” marriages – WE WANT MARRIAGE, WE WANT MARRIAGE, WE WANT MARRIAGE NOW!!!!!!

  11. “Cowardice”? Good gravy, I just don’t happen to want everything that hetero’s have, I’m a gay man, I’d prefer not be considered in terms of a straight paradigm or have my relationships judged by hetero standards either. Married? No thanks, I’m gay.

    I suppose everyone is aware that since November last year, the Australian Parliament passed laws that recognised same-sex couples in federal law, offering them the same rights as unmarried heterosexual couples in areas such as taxation, social security (or the loss of it,)and health, aged care, superannuation, employment hospital/prison visitation rights and inheritance rights? What other ‘inalienable rights’ are you all moaning about?

  12. Ronson – Prime Minister Howard claimed he was prevented from legally recognising same sex relationships because he did not have constitutional authority to do so.

    Prime Minister Rudd will not legally recognise same sex relationships and in defence of that policy he asserts that the policy – -œreflects the widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman.

    The public excuses given by two governments that had to deal with the issue were;

    1. Lack of constitutional authority
    2. Lack of public support

    A referendum would give the Australian people the opportunity to give the government the authority to recognise same sex relationships and if the Australian people voted in favour of giving the government a mandate to recognise same sex relationships it would be evidence that the public would support the legal recognition of same sex relationships by the government.

  13. Stephen, LOL that same Charter of Rights can also protect freedom of religion!! It’s a two edged sword, not a magic wand for gay and lesbian rights.

  14. One of the few constitutional rights that Australians have is a right to freedom of as much as freedom from religion. And yet, our governments remain in morbid dread of Christian fundamentalists, who continue to shape legislation and policy to suit their own misguided ends. There is no such thing as half a human right and those people advocating for GLBTI people to tread softly, go quietly, step-by-step, are in fact selling out the inalienable rights that each of us should possess as free citizens in a free country. That includes the right to form legally recognised, civil unions. Yet another reason why Australia needs, at a Federal and State by State level, Charters of Rights.

  15. Chillisauce100,

    Didn’t Howard make some change to the Marriage Act in 2004v or thereabouts with the support of the ALP?

    Some of those changes were:

    a) to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life;

    b) to ban the recognition of a same-sex marriage that has taken place in another country;

    So why can’t the govt of the day make more changes without having a referendum?

  16. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Put it to the people and let them decide. You (or I) may agree or disagree with the result but at least the people will have spoken.

  17. I am a Australian resident and a UK citizen. I am civil partnered (in the UK). I strongly belive it is about time that members of the “gay community” need to see this legal union as positive. The idea that because you are attracted to the same sex means that you should not have the same rights in society or should see heterosexuality as negative is in my opionion is rubish. LGBT peoples are as individual as everyone else. how can we expect “society” to move on when some LGBT people are more homophobic than the homophobes we seek to challenge!

  18. Try emigrating to this side of the Tasman. Remember, we’ve had civil unions for the last four years or so. Over here, it’s trying to convince our current centre-right govt to change our 50+ yr old adoption laws that’s the major problem…

    Craig Y
    New Zealand

  19. Um, the laws to allow the legal recognition of same sex relationships HAVE been changed. 100 of them. Nearly dounble waht we asked for. And some that we didn’t want, like the changes for welfare recipients.

    You’re talking about gay marriage, which is a church issue. The big religions see marriage as being about procreation, not love. That’s why they oppose couples with the same genitals being invited into their scared institute. That, and the fact that marriage is one of the last bastions of power they have over the state (education being another). I say, they should stick their ‘marriage’ up their crusty jaxies.

  20. The power to create laws relating to Marriage is vested in the Federal Parliament under section 51 (xxi) of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

    If the Federal Parliament wants to change the laws relating to marriage they need a mandate from the Australian people.

    One way the Federal government could get that mandate is to ask the Australian people for that mandate in the form of a referendum.

    Many people have expressed the view in this forum that,

    ‘we should not dare ask for a referendum because the majority of Australians hate gay people and they would never vote for a referendum to allow gay marriage’

    People who hold such views are cowards.

    Cowardice attracts persecution.

    I advocate that gay people assert their rights by calling for a referendum to give the Federal Parliament the mandate to change the law to allow the legal recognition of same sex relationships.

  21. Zeke’s comment is right on the money. Kevin Rudd’s statement that the no gay unions policy “reflects the widely held view in the community that marriage is between a man and a woman,” is not only factually incorrect, but entirely misses the point! Since when has majority opinion been acceptable justification for depriving people of their rights? The belief of the majority has no bearing on the moral acceptability of an action or situation. If 99% of the population supported ethnic cleansing it would still be wrong.

  22. -œOpinion polls consistently show that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage…” And The Human Beliefs and Values Survey found that 24.7 per cent of Australian respondents said they did not want homosexuals living next door. In 2004, more than 51% of Australians thought the death penalty should be reintroduced.

    The problem with democracy is that it’s wonderful until you find you don’t agree with the majority. And as there are always more ignorant and stoopit people than ‘enlightened’ ones, the result of any referendum is probably going to be the wrong choice. Unless you agree with it…

  23. “step by step issue”. Maybe then if a renegade state actually implemented same sex marriage at a state level, this would be a very interesting “step”.
    That way, the general public would get used to the idea on a small scale, to pave the way for it to be rolled out nationally.
    Although the Feds can interfere in Territory law (NT & ACT), if a progressive state such as W.A. or TAS implemented it, they couldn’t really stop it. TAS already has no religious exemptions from anti-discrimination & WA has some progessive parenting laws, both of which the Feds couldn’t stop.

  24. It is really hard winning a referendum due to the fact that a majority in a majority of states and territories have to vote in favour of the issue – not just a majority of Australian electors. Moreover, what if you do lose? How will it be possible (for sometime, at least) to keep raising same-sex marriage? Do you keep raising it on a ballot until the voters get it right? As Gary Burns said, it is a step by step process. It requires more lobbying of all parties, more talking to those not convinced that same-sex marriage is a just cause. That’s how same-sex marriage was achieved overseas – not by popular vote all of a sudden.

  25. Homosexual aussies would have more chance of winning the lottery than being given recognition of their civil union or gay marriage from the Commonwealth Government.
    The lesson the gay community has to learn,is if you get too far in front of the lay folk they can’t see you.
    And if they can’t see you you’ve lost them.
    We have to bring fellow Australians with us when lobbying for same-sex couple recognition.
    I personally have no desire to copy a heterosexuality lifestyle that is flawed.
    I also acknowledge that I have no right to deny others in our community who desire the trimmings and recognition of marriage or civil union.
    I have learnt the simple lesson of patience when working toward full legislative equality for homosexual Australians.
    It’s a step by step issue which will take time.
    Maybe it’s because I came from a school of hard knocks and have learnt the pragmatism of the struggle of being homosexual.
    You can’t fatten a pig on market day folks !

  26. Great idea Chillisauce!

    Once we get that referendum out of the way then we can vote on whether or not we want to legally discriminate against Asians, and then Aboriginals, and then Muslims and then other minority groups who have been traditionally oppressed by the majority in Australia.

    The majority should always have the right to vote on whether or not minority citizens should have equal access to the institutions, rights, responsibilities and benefits that their money and blood pay for.

    Civil rights should be a matter of majority rule. If minorities were meant to have rights God would have made them the majority.

  27. Let us have a referendum on the matter.

    Then we will know for certain if the majority of the Australian community disapproves of the legal recognition of same sex relationships.

  28. Kevin07 is soooo far behind the times on this issue, that he doesn’t even realise that civil unions themselves are now outdated & are being replaced with civil marriage in countries all around the world at lightening speed- even just in the last month or so. Civil unions are now so far out the window, they are not even worth discussing- we should be talking about civil marriage in government registry offices like any straight person can.
    The reason he does not want any type of “marriage-like” anything, is because of a creepy promise he made to the Australian Christian Lobby that he would ban all “gay ceremonies” (ie keep the gays out of sight & invisible). Only a Greens dominated balance of power will start to tip the scales- so remember that if a gay votes Labor they are taken for granted with all first policy preference given to Family First / ACL. (Btw- before you give Kev all the credit for the recent defacto reforms… the ACL approved the defacto recognition as a trade off for banning any ceremonies, to maintain the invisibility of gays). Mmmm, bring on the next election, with a Labor government under the thumb of the Greens instead of AustralianChristianExtremist Lobby.

  29. And here I was reading posts from Jason about the supposed tidal wave of gay marriage legislation sweeping the world, with Australia set to join the club.

    Last time I checked, there were about 6 countries that have legalised gay marriage and a couple of rogue states in the US.