Recognition of same-sex unions in the Australian Capital Territory
|Legal recognition of
|†Note: Not yet in effect|
The Australian Capital Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to legally recognise same-sex couples in 1994. It was the second to allow joint adoption petitions by same-sex couples in 2003, following Western Australia. It would also have been the first to allow civil unions after its Civil Unions Act passed the Legislative Assembly in 2006 had it not been rejected by the Commonwealth. The ACT is currently operating a civil partnership registry which commenced 19 May 2008 under the Civil Partnership Act 2008.
Domestic Relationship Act 1994 
The first legislation to officially recognise same-sex couples in the ACT was the Domestic Relationship Act 1994. This provided for distribution of property and finances in the event of a separation, and inheritance in the event of death.
6 Other pieces of legislation in 2003 and 2004 
9 years later 6 extra acts came into force that was passed by the Stanhope Government to get rid of all discrimination against gay men, lesbians, transgendered, their partners and even their children in every piece of ACT law and statutes. This acts were called the;
Legislation (Gay, Lesbian and Transgender) Amendment Act 2003; Discrimination Amendment Act 2003; Parentage Act 2004; Sexuality Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2004; Human Rights Act 2004 and; Adoption Amendment Act 2004
Civil Unions Act 2006 
Initially proposed in March 2006, the Civil Unions Bill 2006 was intended to established civil unions for same-sex or opposite-sex couples, providing equal legal recognition with marriage under territory law. The Australian Capital Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass such legislation, attracting national attention and sparking a conflict between the ACT and the Commonwealth.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said that the draft bill "will not satisfy the Commonwealth" and it would intervene unless the bill was changed. The Stanhope Government changed the specified parts of the bill, however, according to the Attorney-General, other changes were made which circumvented these changes.
The Civil Unions Bill 2006 passed the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly on 11 May 2006. Following the law's enactment on 9 June 2006, the Attorney-General of Australia announced that the Commonwealth would move to overrule it. On 13 June 2006, the Federal Executive Council instructed the Governor-General of Australia to disallow the Act. The disallowance of the Civil Unions Act was criticised heavily by opposition parties and civil rights advocates, and on 15 June 2006 a motion was moved in the Australian Senate to overturn it and reinstate the legislation. This motion was defeated 32-30 by the majority Coalition members, despite Gary Humphries crossing the floor.
Civil Partnerships Bill 2006 
In December 2006, the Australian Capital Territory government indicated that it would proceed with new legislation recognising same sex unions based on the United Kingdom civil partnership laws. ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell made the territory's position clear, stating "It's still our intention to give the same level of recognition provided for in the Civil Unions Act." A second ACT bill, the Civil Partnerships Bill 2006, replaced the term "civil union" with "civil partnership", but was essentially the same in its effect. It was blocked again in February 2007.
Civil Partnerships Act 2008 
In December 2007, following the 2007 election and the newly elected Labor Government, discussions about reintroducing a revised civil partnerships bill began again. Unlike his predecessor, John Howard, the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said that he would not override ACT legislation allowing for civil unions because it was a matter for states and territories.
In December 2007, the Civil Partnerships Bill went before the ACT Legislative Assembly, but quickly stalled. In February 2008, Attorney-General Robert McClelland responded to the proposed ACT legislation, saying the Rudd Government would not allow civil unions, and reiterated Labor's preference for a system of state-based relationship registers, similar to Tasmania's model. McClelland said that "the ceremonial aspects of the ACT model were inappropriate." The federal government was willing to accept state-based relationship registers so long as they did not "mimic marriage" by allowing a ceremony. McClelland's position was criticised by Greens Senator Bob Brown, who said it was the ugly face of Labor conservatism.
In May 2008, after several attempts to amend the scheme, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell announced the Territory had abandoned its civil partnerships legislation, eliminated any ceremonial aspects, and settled for a system of relationship registers virtually identical to the ones operating in Tasmania and Victoria. The federal Government had not compromised at any point during negotiations. The legislation passed the ACT Legislative Assembly on 8 May 2008, giving same-sex couples increased access to superannuation, taxation and social security law reforms. While legislative ceremonies were removed from the Bill, an administrative ceremony may be performed by a representative the ACT Register-General. The Civil Partnerships Act 2008 commenced on 19 May 2008.
Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill 2009 
The Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill 2009 was presented to the ACT Legislative Assembly by the ACT Greens on 26 August 2009, allowing ceremonies to be conducted with civil partnerships, which was the contentious item removed from last years' legislation. Labor initially accused the Greens of playing politics by resurrecting the issue, but unanimously backed the bill as a matter of principle as it is Labor Party policy to support civil unions.
The bill was approved by legislators on 11 November after an amendment was inserted banning straight couples from having a civil partnership ceremony. This made the ACT the first territory in the country to legalise civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples. The federal government had threatened to quash the legislation after it was passed, but after discussions, the federal attorney general said the issue had been resolved satisfactorily, requiring that same-sex partners register their intention to hold a ceremony. The ACT Legislative Assembly will introduce the amendments when it next sits.
Civil Union Bill 2012 
In August 2012, the ACT Civil Union Bill passed after it legal advice showed that the Federal government removed its ability to legislate for territorial and state same-sex marriage after it defined marriage as only between man and woman in the Marriage Amendment Act 2004. The Civil Union bill grants the same rights to same-sex couples as people married under the Marriage Act. 
See also 
- "Domestic Relationship Act 1994". Austlii. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "ACT to legislate for civil unions". Jon Stanhope. 2005-12-02. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- "Ruddock threatens ACT same-sex union laws". ABC News. 2006-03-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "G-G to disallow civil unions laws". ABC News Online. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- Dunkerley, Susanna (2006-12-12). "Equal rights closer for ACT gay couples". NEWS.com.au. Retrieved 2008-05-23.[dead link]
- "New Bid To Pass Gay Partnership Bill In Australian Capital Territory". 365Gay.com. 2006-12-12. Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "ACT revising same sex relationships law". ABC News Online. 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- "ACT tables gay partnerships bill". ABC News. 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- Corbett, Kate (2007-02-07). "Gay marriage plan a risk to minors, A-G says". NEWS.com.au. Retrieved 2008-05-23.[dead link]
- "Minors could 'wed' under gay marriage plan". NEWS.com.au. 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2008-05-23.[dead link]
- Corbett, Kate (2007-02-06). "Same-sex union Bill blocked again". NEWS.com.au. Retrieved 2008-05-23.[dead link]
- "AG's to discuss same sex unions". The West. Retrieved 2008-05-22.[dead link]
- "Corbell to revive gay union Act". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- "ACT Govt renews push for gay 'partnerships'". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
- Stafford, Annabel (2007-12-07). "Rudd refuses to overrule ACT on gay partnership bill". Melbourne: The Age. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- Scroope, Lloyd (2007-12-12). "Your say: Same sex unions, moral or immoral?". Yass Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
- "Media Release:ACT welcomes Prime Minister's commitment to self-government". Jon Stanhope. Retrieved 2008-05-01. Text " Chief Minister, Australian Capital Territory " ignored (help)
- Maley, Paul (2008-02-07). "Gay unions are OK ... just don't do it in public". The Australian. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "ACT civil partnerships issue will cause government rift: Brown". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- Maley, Paul; Ryan, Siobhain (2008-05-05). "ACT made to axe gay unions". The Australian. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- Smiles, Sarah (2008-05-05). "Federal veto forces ACT backdown on gay unions". Melbourne: The Age. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- "Watered down same-sex laws pass in ACT". Syney Morning Herald. 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- "Civil Partnerships Act 2008". ACT Government. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- "ACT recognises same sex couples". Melbourne: The Age. 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2008-05-20.
- "Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill 2009". ACT Government. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- "ACT Legislationo Register - 2009 bills presented". ACT Government. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- "Labor supports civil ceremonies bill". ABC News. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
- Green, Jessica (2009-11-11). "Australian territory legalises gay civil partnership ceremonies". Pink News. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
- "ACT win fight on gay wedding laws". AdelaideNow. 2009-11-26. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
- "Assembly passes civil unions reforms".