In 2004, the Federal Coalition Government amended the Marriage Act 1961 to define marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. The government inserted this traditional, self-evident definition in the Marriage Act in order to pre-empt possible moves by activist judges to redefine marriage to include homosexual unions.
On 11 May 2006, the Australian Capital Territory’s Labor Government did its best to flout the Federal Government’s amendment to the Marriage Act by enacting legislation (the Civil Unions Bill 2006) to give homosexual couples the right to enter into civil unions. These same-sex civil unions were to be treated as marriages in all but name.
Aware of the Prime Minister’s practical and principled commitment to marriage, many people hoped that he would take action to overturn the ACT’s civil unions legislation. And on 6 June he announced his intention to do precisely that.
Asked about his government’s “plans to scuttle” the ACT legislation on ABC Radio’s AM program on 7 June, Mr Howard said: “Yes, we have decided to do that because the Bill is plainly an attempt to mimic marriage under the misleading title of civil unions. We are not anti-homosexual people, or gay and lesbian people. It is not a question of discriminating against them. It is a question of preserving as an institution in our society marriage as having a special character and if you look at the legislation, what it effectively says, a civil union is not a marriage, but it will be treated for all purposes as being equivalent to a marriage. Now that is a piece of legislative hypocrisy of the first order and that, in a sense out of the words of the legislation itself, is an explanation as to why we are taking the action we are.”
Mr Howard’s displeasure at what the ACT government has done and his determination to undo it is good news indeed—and it would be good to make an effort to commend him for it.
The ACT legislation will be disallowed on 1 August. It is unclear whether homosexual couples will still be able to celebrate civil unions between now and then.
Write to thank the Prime Minister for acting to defend the institution of marriage. You can contact him via email at www.pm.gov.au/email.cfm; or write to the Hon John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600.
Also, pray that mainland state governments, all of which are controlled by the Labor Party, will not try to introduce same-sex civil unions along the lines of the ACT legislation or same-sex relationships registers along the lines of Tasmanian legislation.