Barr ‘saddened’ over civil unions stance of marriage advocates
ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr is said to be “personally saddened” by suggestions from marriage equality groups and other LGBTI activists that the Government’s proposed amendments to its civil unions laws are a step back for same-sex couples.
During this month’s sitting of Parliament, the Government will debate a bill it introduced late last year that would allow same-sex couples to enter into a civil union at a legally binding ceremony conducted by a celebrant.
Though same-sex couples in the ACT have been able to register civil partnerships since 2008, the changes would reflect the original civil unions laws first introduced by former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope before they were overturned in 2006 by the federal government under then-Prime Minister John Howard.
Ivette Gonzalez, spokesperson for Equal Love Canberra, said the campaign for marriage equality would continue with “full force” with a rally on August 11 as the Government's bill would not bring about equal civil unions let alone equal marriage.
“It is discriminatory because it only applies to non-heterosexual couples, taking the discriminatory federal Marriage Act as a reference point,” she said.
"Civil unions are a consolation prize for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-sexual and intersex people. That’s better than nothing but highlights the importance of continuing the campaign to change the Marriage Act and win marriage equality for all at the federal level.”
Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich echoed those concerns, saying the Government should listen to the LGBTI community.
“Obviously the ACT Labor Government have been really pioneering when it comes to recognition of same-sex couples, however the debate has now moved on and it’s one about marriage and it’s one about equality,” he said.
“A really good strategy for ACT Labor would be to focus on the great work that they have done towards affecting the debate federally.”
The ACT Liberal Party has said it will oppose the civil unions amendments while the Greens have indicated they will consult with LGBTI community groups before deciding on their position.
The openly gay Barr, who along with WA Senator Louise Pratt is also co-convener of the ALP’s internal LGBTI caucus Rainbow Labor, told SX that no one was arguing civil unions were better or a replacement for marriage.
“I am personally saddened by Equal Love’s attacks on the ALP.
“They are unnecessary and divisive. You don’t win support for a cause by attacking your supporters,” Barr said.
“Equal Love have previously rallied for civil union ceremonies and clearly understand that marriage laws are the preserve of the federal parliament.”
Barr said it was thanks in part to Rainbow Labor’s campaigning that the Labor Party had adopted a position of supporting marriage equality as part of party platform during last December’s National Conference.
“All ACT Labor MPs, Senators and MLAs support marriage equality and the ACT Branch of the Labor Party has a long standing record in this area,” Barr added.