Civil Unions Act 2006

Civil Unions Act 2006

The "Civil Unions Act 2006 (ACT)" was an Act of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly which established civil unions for same-sex or opposite-sex couples that allowed for equal legal recognition with marriage under territory law. The Australian Capital Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass such legislation, attracting a great deal of public attention and sparking a conflict between the ACT and the Commonwealth.

The bill was subject to Commonwealth antagonism since drafting, with the Commonwealth claiming the ACT was attempting to legislate marriage, a matter which the Commonwealth has exclusive constitutional power over. John Howard stated that, "the legislation, by its own admission, is an attempt to equate civil unions with marriage and we don't find that acceptable." This position was further confirmed by Senator Nick Minchin's comments on behalf of the Liberal Party, " is clear that the intent and purpose of that act is to equate a civil union to a marriage. In that sense we regarded it as repugnant." (verified by Hansard documents)Fact|date=February 2007

The "Civil Unions Bill 2006" was initially proposed in March 2006. [cite web |title = ACT to legislate for civil unions |publisher= Jon Stanhope |date=2005-12-02 |url=,%20MLA |accessdate= 2008-05-22] Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said that the enactment of the bill for civil unions "will not satisfy the Commonwealth" and it would intervene unless the bill was changed. [cite web |title=Ruddock threatens ACT same-sex union laws |publisher=ABC News |date=2006-03-30 |url= |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] The Stanhope Government acceded to his wishes, and changed the specified parts of the bill accordingly. However, according to the Attorney-General, other changes were made which circumvented these changes. The "Civil Unions Act 2006" was passed 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. [cite web |title=G-G to disallow civil unions laws |publisher=ABC News Online |date=2006-06-13 |url= |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] 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.

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. [cite web |author=Dunkerley, Susanna |title=Equal rights closer for ACT gay couples | |date=2006-12-12 |url=,10117,20916301-1702,00.html?from=public_rss |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] [cite web |title=New Bid To Pass Gay Partnership Bill In Australian Capital Territory | |date=2006-12-12 |url= |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] 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. [cite web |title=ACT revising same sex relationships law|publisher=ABC News Online |date=2006-10-20 |url= |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] It was blocked again in February 2007.cite web |title = ACT tables gay partnerships bill |publisher= ABC News |date=2006-12-12 |url= |accessdate= 2008-05-22] [cite web |author=Corbett, Kate |title=Gay marriage plan a risk to minors, A-G says | |date=2007-02-07 |url=,10117,21187860-421,00.html?from=public_rss |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] [cite web |title=Minors could 'wed' under gay marriage plan | |date=2007-02-07 |url=,10117,21185963-29277,00.html?from=public_rss |accessdate=2008-05-23 ] [cite web |author=Corbett, Kate |title=Same-sex union Bill blocked again | |date=2007-02-06 |url=,10117,21184064-421,00.html?from=public_rss |accessdate=2008-05-23 ]

Since 1994, the "Domestic Relationship Act 1994" has been in effect. [cite web |title=Domestic Relationship Act 1994 |publisher=Austlii |url= |accessdate=2008-05-23 ]

"Civil Partnerships Act 2008"

In November 2007, after the 2007 election where the Labor Party became the majority, discussions about reintroducing a revised civil partnerships bill began again. [cite web |title= AG's to discuss same sex unions |publisher= The West |url= |accessdate= 2008-05-22] [cite web |title= Corbell to revive gay union Act |publisher= The Canberra Times |url= |accessdate= 2008-05-22] [cite web |title= ACT Govt renews push for gay 'partnerships' |publisher= ABC News |url= |accessdate= 2008-05-22] [cite web |title= GLBT groups welcome Rudd's election win |publisher= SX News |url= |accessdate= 2008-05-22] 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 2006" went before the ACT Legislative Assembly [ [ Jon Stanhope | Chief Minister, Australian Capital Territory | Media Release ] ] and stalled. Attorney General Robert McClelland said that the ceremonial aspects of the ACT model were inappropriate. In May 2008, after several attempts to amend the scheme, ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell announced the Territory had removed the ceremony portion of its civil partnerships legislation and settled for a system of relationship registers virtually identical to the ones operating in Tasmania and Victoria.

See also

* Status of same-sex marriage
* Same-sex marriage in Australia
* LGBT rights in Australia
* Domestic partnership in Tasmania
* Domestic partnership
* Homosexuality laws of the world


*Walsh, Kerry-Anne. "Taking the liberty to tell us how we should live our lives" "The Sun-Herald" June 11 2006: page 31
*Humphries, David. "ACT vows to try again on same-sex union rights" [ The Sydney Morning Herald] June 14 2006
* Australian Christian Lobby, Media Release [ Civil Partnerships Still Mimic Marriage] 23 October 2006

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