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Australian government to block gay civil unions

Written by: Staff

Canberra, Mar 30: Australia's conservative national government, which opposes homosexual marriages, said today it will overturn any new law legalising gay civil unions in the national capital.

''There is a special place in Australian society for the institution of marriage, as historically understood, and we do not intend to allow that to be in any way undermined,'' said Prime Minister John Howard.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government, which rules the capital, Canberra, has become the first state or territory to introduce same-sex civil union legislation.

The ACT hopes to pass the legislation into law by May, but the federal government has constitutional control over the nation's two territories, though not its six states, enabling it to overturn laws.

Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the Commonwealth (federal) government would veto any law which elevated gay civil unions to the status of marriage.

''Let me make it very clear, that will not satisfy the Commonwealth and we would include the introduction of legislation to prevent that from occurring,'' Ruddock told reporters.

''If they seek to portray civil unions as a marriage, in our view, that is quite inappropriate. It is quite misleading, it suggests to people who might be interested in civil union that what they have is a marriage, when in fact it is not,'' he said.

The ACT's civil union will only give gay couples equality with married couples regarding wills and the division of property in the territory. While the civil union is open to all Australians it is only valid in the ACT and will not affect national laws governing taxation, superannuation and health care.

ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope said on Thursday he would push ahead with the legislation and questioned why the national government opposed gay unions.

''What is his (Ruddock's) real concern about my commitment to remove discrimination and to show respect to same-sex relationships,'' asked Stanhope.

''One has to pose the question whether or not the real reason is that there is no place in John Howard's Australia for homosexuals.'' Britain introduced gay civil unions in December 2005, with singer Elton John and his partner David Furnish among hundreds of gay couples who tied the knot.

A number of other countries, including Canada, Spain, France, Argentina, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, allow for formal recognition of same-sex relationships.


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