Thursday, 15 June 2006

ACT, Civil Unions, and the Federal Government

Ordinarily I refrain from using my blog (as popular as it is :P ) as a political soapbox, but I want to write about this. Last Friday, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) enacted legislation allowing civil unions (as distinct from marriages, and including same-sex partners), and on Tuesday the Federal Government intervened to overturn the law.

It started at the end of last year, when Jon Stanhope, Chief Minister of the ACT, announced the ACT government's intention of intruducing civil union legislation. The Attorney-General promised that the Federal Government would intervene unless the bill was ammended. The ACT government did so, and passed the bill on 11th May this year. However, on 6th June the Attorney-General and John Howard confirmed that they would move against the legislation. On 9th June the legislation came into effect, and on 13th June the Governor-General, at the instruction of the Federal Executive Council, overturned the ACT's legislation.
Today, the Federal Opposition joined with minor parties, and Liberal Senator Gary Humphries even crossed the floor, to challenge the Federal Government... but their motion ultimately failed.

From a moral standpoint, I am of course disappointed with my country's Federal Government. It's disgusting that same-sex marriages were legally banned in the first place, in 2004. It's one thing to move conservatively. It's another thing to move backwards.

From a political standpoint, I am even more frustrated. The Federal Government claims that it overturns the ACT's legislation because the ACT overstepped its legislative boundaries.
However, the Attorney General said "We have decided to defend the fundamental institution of marriage," and John Howard said "There is a special place in Australian society for the institution of marriage" and that he did not intend to let it "to be in any way undermined". Nevermind that the overturned legislation is concerned only with these newly introduced civil unions, not marriages.

That sounds a lot like morals, not politics, to me. I have to wonder whether the Federal Government would have intervened if the ACT's civil unions did not include same-sex partners. As Jon Stanhope said, "one has to pose the question is whether or not the real reason is that there is no place in John Howard's Australia for homosexuals."


Anonymous said...

Australia is out of step with most enlightened democracies and certainly those of the Europe. Australian policy choice is nothing mirror images of the USA and Howard and his Government prove once more to be nothing more that lapdogs of the USA.

Will there outrage? Or is Howard’s Australia really reflecting the majority view? It is a pity Australian couldn’t look east to New Zealand and see the model of a democracy built on respect, and tolerance of its entire people.

The actions of the Howard government bring shame on all Australians and reduces the standing Australians in the eyes of many.

Luke said...

Dude, embrace the political soapbox :) The world would be a better place if more people did.

I think the ideal of marriage is worth undermining. That is, if marriage is going to perpetuate as some sacred, expected and mandatory behaviour.

I am fully down with marriage in what it means for two people spiritually, but not what it means socially.

So, during the revolution (in joke for any 3rd party readers) we will re-invent the concept to include all types of arrangements where two (or more) people decide to harmoniously live in an arrangement together and mutually commit to that arrangement.

Nick said...

Couldn't agree more!
Let marriage be the domain of religious and cultural institutions.
Let civil unions be the domain of law. And let law not discriminate!