What a surprise. No sooner had ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope announced a plan to recognise civil unions – both heterosexual and same-sex – than Phillip Ruddock announced the Feds would veto it. Our Attorney-General hasn’t had this much fun since there was last a refugee boat on the horizon.
It might seem pointless for Jon Stanhope’s “government” (so cute, it’s like a little toy parliament!) to even have tried this on. Unlike grown-up jurisdictions like NSW, any Territory legislation can be overridden by Federal laws. That’s why the NT’s euthanasia bill got snuffed out by Kevin Andrews’ private member’s bill, which wouldn’t have had effect if NSW had legalised it.
But when you’re one of 17 MPs elected to represent only 300,000 people, what else is there to do? It sure beats the traditional pastime of ACT legislators, twiddling their thumbs.
Besides, the ACT has always legalised things that are banned elsewhere in order to make living in a town of public servants more bearable. That’s why most Canberrans spend their weekends smoking pot, letting off fireworks and watching porn, sometimes simultaneously. Allowing couples to register civil unions is definitely a better tourist attraction than Questacon.
This is one of these issues that just makes me angry. We aren’t talking about marriage in a church. Homosexuality’s pretty clearly vetoed in the Bible, so it’s not astonishing that churches object to it, as hurtful as this is to gay Christians. We’re talking about a harmless ceremony registering a union that already has substantially the same rights and duties associated with it as marriage, thanks to the existing de facto legislation. We’re talking about stopping people who only want to celebrate their love, and make a commitment. Shouldn’t we, as a society, be in favour of that? (Hint: yes.)
Who would these laws hurt, exactly? Or more to the point, which of the members of Fred Nile’s support base do we not feel perfectly okay about upsetting? And isn’t giving a few wowsers bees in their bonnets about a matter that isn’t really any concern of theirs far less problematic than discriminating against a large section of our society because of their sexuality?
Every Labor state and territory should do the same thing as the ACT, and take it to the High Court, even if only to make Philip Ruddock look bad. Tasmania has already passed laws recognising civil unions, though it doesn’t go nearly as far as the ACT laws, which would make civil unions legally equivalent to marriage. Come on, Australia, it’s 2006. If fusty Britain can allow Elton John and David Furnish to pledge their troth without crumbling to pieces, then surely our society – which used to be more progressive on these kinds of issues – can cope as well.