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New Push To Legalize Gay Unions In Australia
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: November 30, 2007 - 7:30 am ET

(Canberra) The Australian Capital Territory is reviving plans to legalize civil unions, a move the new federal government said it was unlikely to oppose.

Twice before the territorial government passed civil unions legislation only to see the laws voided by the federal government of Prime Minister John Howard. (story) Howard said the legislation violated a ban on gay marriage in Australia.

In 2004 Howard's government passed legislation limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

After the first attempt by the ACT government to legalize civil unions the federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission began an investigation into inequities faced by same-sex couples. The commission held hearings across the country. (story)

Commissioners heard from dozens of gay couples in hearings across the country of how partners have been cut out of wills because they have not legal status, how children in same-sex relationships are harmed, and how federal pension law hurts one partner when the other dies.

In its report to the government in June the Commission made more than 50 recommendations and urged the passing laws guaranteeing rights for same-sex couples.

Despite the recommendations Howard's government refused to act.  Last week Howard's Liberals suffered a crushing defeat at the polls to the opposition Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd. (story)

Rudd opposes same-sex marriage and has indicated that he is not interested in repealing the ban but has suggested he would be amenable to civil unions.

That has given the ACT government an opening to resurrect the legislation.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said he expects a bill, already filed, to be passed early next year.

Friday incoming federal Attorney General Robert McClelland said Labor is unlikely to block the legislation if it passes.

"We would be prepared to look at it with good faith rather than with the intention of obstructing it," McClelland told the Sydney Herald. 

"The Labor Party has already resolved not to agree to gay marriage but we are given to examining appropriate forms of registration of de facto relationships, including same-sex de facto relationships."

� 2007


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