Australian Capital to recognize same-sex unions

Angela D’Amboise | March 31, 2006

Rodney Croome
CANBERRA, Australia — Following years of lobbying from Australia’s gay community, same-sex civil marriages are set to become legal later this year as government officials in the nation’s capital territory have introduced civil union legislation.

Gay couples in Canberra could be holding ceremonies to have their relationships formally recognized as early as the middle of the year, said Jon Stanhope, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory.

“The new laws will give same-sex couples functional equality under ACT law with married couples,” Stanhope told Reuters on Wednesday.

Stanhope's Labour Party has a majority in the parliament and expects to pass the legislation in May.

The ACT is Australia’s first territory of state to introduce legislation to legalize gay civil unions. Australia has two territories and six states.

Australia’s Gay and Lesbian Rights group spokesman Rodney Croome called the ACT decision “welcomed,” adding that gay and lesbian couples have the right to have their relationships acknowledged by society.

"The Stanhope government's proposed civil union scheme is an important step towards a society in which all inter-personal love, care and commitment is valued," Croome told Reuters. "Inevitably we will see same-sex couples traveling to Canberra to have their unions solemnized and returning home expecting and demanding equal recognition and protection for their relationships."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is vocally opposed to gay marriage, as is Australia’s Catholic Church. No national laws in Australia recognize same-sex unions.

"My challenge to the federal government is to end its discriminatory treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians," Stanhope said in a statement, according to Reuters. "While the ACT is determined to do what it can to afford equal protection under the law to all people… it must be recognized that without changes federally, this equal treatment will be enjoyed only in relation to territory laws." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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