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Australian Territory To Permit Civil Unions


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Australian Territory To Permit Civil Unions

by Peter Hacker, 365Gay.com Sydney, Australia Bureau

Posted: December 2, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(Canberra) The government of Australia's Capital Territory has announced it will bring in legislation to create civil unions. The decision was hailed by LGBT civil rights groups and criticized by the federal government.

The Territory's Chief Minister said the bill would grant a "basic social and legal right" to couples whose relationships were not recognized under federal law.

It would give partners in same-sex relationships the right to inherit and consent to medical treatment for partners.

The bill is based on New Zealand's civil unions law which came into force in April, and similar to one coming into effect in Britain later this month and other civil union laws in Europe.

LGBT rights groups praised the territorial government for its decision.

"Fair minded Australians recognize the value to the community of all committed loving relationships and that these relationships should have the support of families, community and government," said Australian Marriage Equality spokesperson Malcolm McPherson.

If passed the legislation would be the most wide-ranging for gay couples in Australia.

In 2003, Tasmania granted gay couples the right to register their partnerships but carries no legal weight.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Australia. (story) The federal government passed legislation last year defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The gay rights group Coalition for Equality called on the federal government to repeal the law and recognize same-sex couples.

"It's now time for federal law to catch up with local and international law, and most importantly, public opinion," said spokesperson Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne.

Same-sex marriage currently is legal in only four countries, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada. On Thursday South African's highest court gave the government one year to bring in legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry. (story)

©365Gay.com 2005


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