Gay rights advocates in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), unhappy with amendments to civil partnership laws passed this month, said the changes lowered the bar for other jursidictions looking to introduce legal ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Equal Love Canberra spokesman John Kloprogge criticised the ACT Greens’ support for amendments introduced by Attorney-General Simon Corbell, saying the Greens had dropped at the last hurdle.
“The disappointing thing is this will now be seen as the end of the line. It will create a precedent — that this is the best the states and territories around the country can hope to achieve,” Kloprogge  told the Star.
“We don’t accept the decision. The decision was wrong and we think the Stanhope Government and the ACT Greens should have taken the matter right to the end, actually testing the waters to make the Rudd Government confront the issue.”
The amendments — introduced after behind-the-scenes intervention from the Rudd Government — still allow same-sex couples to hold a legal ceremony in the presence of a celebrant, however, they now require couples to notify the territory’s registrar-general of their union in advance.
Critics say the split waters down the importance of the ceremony.
“We’re very, very disappointed with the Greens and it’s the first step backwards they’ve made for gay and lesbian rights,” Kloprogge said.
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury told the Star the Greens had been forced into a compromise position.
“We do have a strong position on this legislation and, no, we’re not happy with it, but given the [federal] Government’s position …it was the most we could achieve,” Rattenbury said.
“We started this process at a time when everyone said, ‘Don’t even try it, you’ll get nowhere’. We were the ones who said, ‘No, we’re going to put this back on the agenda’.
“To suggest the Greens have taken a backwards step is untrue and unfair.”
Rattenbury said in supporting the changes the Greens had chosen the rights of ACT couples over “playing politics”.
“The views of Equal Love are not the only views of the gay and lesbian community in the ACT and that’s something [we] had to weigh up in the decision making process,” he said.
“I respect that some people aren’t happy with that but I also ask they respect that we found ourselves in a difficult position and we had to make a judgment call and went down the path of accepting the changes to make sure relationships were legally recognised.”

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