Australia: The "coming out" of PM John Howard & Attorney-General Philip Ruddock Print E-mail

Howard Government's 2006 homophobia turns Australia into an even greater international laughing stock 

  PM Howard & Attorney-General Ruddock

Sydney Morning Herald -- Thursday March 30, 2006

PM will not allow 'marriage by another name'

There is a special place in Australian society for marriage and that will not be undermined by proposed ACT laws for gay couples, Prime Minister John Howard says.

The federal government is threatening to introduce legislation to block proposed ACT laws which register civil unions and effectively give them the same rights as a married couple.

Prime Minister John Howard and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock view the ACT laws as an attempt to undermine the federal legislation introduced in 2004, which defines marriage as a union between a man and women to the exclusion of all others.

Mr Howard said the proposal was "marriage by another name" and he would not allow it.

"We will always seek to remove areas of discrimination against homosexuals but 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," he said.

Mr Howard said marriage celebrants, who are licensed by the Commonwealth, would not be allowed to perform civil union ceremonies.

"Now that seems to me and I think it would seem to most Australians as marriage by another name," he said.

"The commonwealth parliament has declared the long standing law of this country, the common law of this country, is that marriage is a voluntary union for life between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

"It was done very deliberately, we therefore look with some scepticism at what the ACT is doing."

In 2004, Labor eventually fell in behind the government position but there were tensions within the party over the decision, which upset supporters in inner-city electorates.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley today refused to be drawn on the issue, the latest in a series with the potential to cause a rift within the party.

"The caucus will have a chance to think about it," he said.

"We'll look at it carefully when Mr Ruddock brings his bill to the House.

"But we do approach it from the basis that, by and large, we think the Territory should be left to themselves in the same way as the states are."

Mr Ruddock has written to ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope to warn him of the federal government's planned approach if the ACT continues with its draft proposal.

He said the Commonwealth was unhappy with the ACT's attempts to work around the federal laws.

"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," he said.

Mr Stanhope accused Mr Ruddock of doing the bidding of Mr Howard.

"Philip Ruddock is on the record as saying civil unions are a matter for the states and territories," he said.

"I believe he meant what he said until he was directed otherwise by the prime minister."

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokeswoman May Miller-Dawkins said Mr Ruddock should get his hands off legislation that would benefit people in the ACT.

"The concerns that this bill makes civil unions equal to marriage are incorrect and baseless," she said.

"The scheme proposed by the ACT government is stated as explicitly different from marriage.

"It is time for Mr Ruddock to respect the right of state and territory governments to make important social policy decisions for the people who elected them."

AAP