ALP: Ok to be teh gay, but don’t flaunt it with a ceremony

It’s very disappointing that Attorney-General Robert McClelland has taken an illiberal stand by refusing to permit the ACT government to legitimise commitment ceremonies for same sex couples. It’s even more disappointing that this is apparently a result of promises made privately to the unrepresentative Australian Christian Lobby (on which, see a well argued piece by former Democrats Senator Brian Greig at On Line Opinion). Does anyone seriously believe that allowing same-sex couples to formalise their love in a ceremony would somehow “weaken” marriage as an institution? If anyone took offence, that’s their problem – even if you don’t support same-sex unions, I can’t see how that could possibly over-ride the much greater good that obtains to those who wish to enter into one. As Rodney Croome remarks in today’s Crikey:

Before the election Kevin Rudd made an explicit, written commitment to religious groups that Labor would not support state schemes which allow official ceremonies.

Now he’s caught between that promise on the one hand, and his commitment to co-operative federalism and to ending anti-gay discrimination on the other.

In resolving that dilemma I’d direct our new PM to the yet-to-be-written political dictionary which explains the difference between post-Joh Queensland and post-Howard Australia.

In the former, many people may have been content simply that the old days were over.

In the latter, as Brendan Nelson has so dramatically demonstrated, many people are eager to move forward.

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Posted in politics, religion, sexuality, sociology
30 comments on “ALP: Ok to be teh gay, but don’t flaunt it with a ceremony
  1. Helen says:

    This was in the Age on-line today, I’m sorry I don’t know how to post just the link

    Rudd won’t veto ACT’s same-s*x unions

    December 6, 2007 – 5:14PM

    The federal government will not step in to veto ACT government plans to legalise same-s*x civil unions, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

    The territory’s last bid to give same-s*x couples the same legal recognition as heteros*xual couples was disallowed by the Howard government last year, but Mr Rudd pledged to take a different tack.

    Mr Rudd said it was Labor policy not to interfere with state and territory legislation.

    “On these matters, state and territories are answerable to their own jurisdictions,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Brisbane.

    “State and territory governments are elected to govern, they are accountable to their constituents.”

    © 2007 AAP

  2. mbahnisch says:

    That doesn’t clarify the question, Helen, of whether McClelland’s position of not allowing the ACT government to authorise ceremonies to commemorate same-sex unions stands. The objection, even supposedly from Ruddock, was not to the principle as such, but to “anything that resembled marriage”, and that appears to have been the deal done with the ACL.

  3. Roger Lamb says:

    Yep, Helen (thanks), same thing is in the Herald Sun.

    Now, Rodney Croome claims that:

    “Before the election Kevin Rudd made an explicit, written commitment to religious groups that Labor would not support state schemes which allow official ceremonies.”

    Could be, I dunno – first I’ve heard of it (which means nought). Still, not supporting is one thing, not standing in the way (e.g., not vetoing) is another – and the two are compatible: “The federal government will not step in to veto ACT government plans to legalise same-sex civil unions, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.”

    Croome’s comment, more fully, is:

    “Before the election Kevin Rudd made an explicit, written commitment to religious groups that Labor would not support state schemes which allow official ceremonies.

    Now he’s caught between that promise on the one hand, and his commitment to co-operative federalism and to ending anti-gay discrimination on the other.

    In resolving that dilemma I’d direct our new PM….”

    Ok, so the Rudd government doesn’t support the ACT legislation. That’s (1) one thing. (2) He has a commitment to co-operative federalism (but, hey, he’s not gonna veto the ACT legislation, so give that one a tick too). And (3) he is said (by Croome) to be committed to ending anti-gay discrimination. Well, one way to end it (setting the question of “marriage” aside) in the ACT is not to resist the local legislation.

    Where, exactly, is Croome’s alleged dilemma?

  4. mbahnisch says:

    It depends on whether what Rudd is saying is that the ACT can legislate entirely as it wishes, or whether McClelland is still saying that the legislation must exclude the authorisation of any ceremony. That’s fairly clear, I’d have thought.

  5. Roger Lamb says:

    Well, Mark, as I interpret Rudd on evening news, Rudd is saying the ACT can legislate as it wishes, and it will be held accountable by its own electorate. Hell, I could be wrong in my interpretation – but I’ll need someone to show me that.

    And IS McClelland “still saying that the legislation must exclude the authorisation of any ceremony”? [Mark] Or, more to the point, did he EVER say it?? The (so far made-available) basis for the claim that he did seems to lie in Annabel Stafford’s claim in The Age that:

    “And — in comments that suggest the ACT will find it hard to get federal support [NB!!] for civil unions — Mr McClelland said it would be ‘unseemly’ if a tourism industry sprang up to take advantage of certain states having more attractive arrangements for same-sex couples.”

    Not much of a basis.

    Finally, setting all that to one side, I’d respond to Mark’s claim that –

    “It depends on whether what Rudd is saying is that the ACT can legislate entirely as it wishes, or whether McClelland is still saying that the legislation must exclude the authorisation of any ceremony. That’s fairly clear, I’d have thought.”

    – by saying, Nope, mate, what’s fairly clear is that even if they are both saying what is here suggested, it depends on who would prevail, Rudd or McClelland.

    Now, I know a good bookie.

  6. mbahnisch says:

    Roger, I’m sure Croome, as someone who’s a prominent figure in the gay and lesbian rights lobby, knows what he’s talking about. McClelland has been quoted explicitly as saying that the ACT bill may not receive “outright support”.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Govt-wary-on-supporting-ACT-civil-unions/2007/12/05/1196530721223.html

    He’s to meet with the ACT government tomorrow.

    If Rudd is now saying that there is no question of interfering with the ACT legislation in any way, that would be most welcome to me, and would contradict McClelland’s prior position. But it seems to me there is a bit of wiggle room in Rudd’s reported comments, so I’d like to see some clarification.

  7. Roger Lamb says:

    Mark … well, we agree about one thing: Clarification Is Good.

    But you also write: “If Rudd is now saying that there is no question of interfering with the ACT legislation in any way, that would be most welcome to me, and would contradict McClelland’s prior position.”

    Rudd says (let’s assume) “We will not interfere.” McClelland says (let’s assume) that we will not give “outright support”.

    Where’s the contradiction?

    Not interfering is compatible with not supporting – a point made earlier.

  8. mbahnisch says:

    There would be no point to McClelland meeting with the ACT government to discuss whether or not the legislation should proceed if there wasn’t some intention to negotiate with them to water it down, Roger. So there clearly was at least the prospect of “interfering” as well as “not supporting” being contemplated.

  9. Helen says:

    Mark, you’re right, of course. I jumped in too quickly, I hadn’t checked what McLelland said, I see that the PM is referring to legalising/legal recognition, as opposed to allowing the authorisation of ceremonies. That being the case, there’s definitely room for a lot of improvement.

    I have a fairly simple attitude to relationships, I guess – same-sex couples should automatically have the same rights and choices as opposite-sex couple. But there are obviously people who fervently believe that this equality is somehow wrong, who seek to have their particular belief systems replace or dominate all others.

    I must admit I’m not comfortable with the apparent influence on governments of ‘moral’ lobbyists . I hope Mr Rudd’s just-announced code of conduct re having a public register of lobbyists will bring some openness.

    Wanted this to be a bit more coherent than it probably is, but it’s been a long, busy day.

  10. mbahnisch says:

    Thanks for the comment, Helen. I share those concerns. The wording of the response from the Australian Christian Lobby is very interesting in this context:

    http://www.acl.org.au/pdfs/load_pdf_public.pdf?pdf_id=999&from=NATIONAL

    Particularly as it’s very doubtful that Rudd’s agreeing to this swung many votes.

  11. Helen says:

    I’d also be interested to know more detail/context about any written commitment that may have been made by Mr Rudd.

  12. mbahnisch says:

    Presumably, as the ACL say in their press release it states ALP policy against civil unions which “mimic” marriage, whatever that means. It’s most unfortunate that this policy was adopted in the first place at the behest of Christian lobby groups and no doubt out of a desire to avoid Howardian wedges. I can’t imagine a majority of ALP members really feel like this. At least I hope that’s right.

  13. Helen says:

    Thanks Mark, just followed the link to the ACL press release. Blimey! I suppose media releases don’t have to back up their statements with references. I’ll be more than a tad disappointed if the resolution apparently passed at the Labor National Conference really is as interpreted and represented by the ACL.

  14. Roger Lamb says:

    Mark, -had time out for dinner. Burp.

    You write,

    “There would be no point to McClelland meeting with the ACT government to discuss whether or not the legislation should proceed if there wasn’t some intention to negotiate with them to water it down, Roger. So there clearly was at least the prospect of “interfering” as well as “not supporting” being contemplated.”

    But wait: “…to discuss whether the legislation should proceed…”? Where did THAT come from? Maybe from you, maybe from some other source. I would be interested in the source. In any event, there’s quite a bit packed in to your premise on the way to your “clearly” drawn conclusion.

    What (actually) IS the point of the meeting? I don’t know, but the SMH says:

    “ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell is meeting his federal counterpart – Robert McClelland – on Friday to discuss the territory’s third bid to implement its Civil Partnerships Bill.

    Mr Corbell said last week he was optimistic about winning federal support [NB!!] for the bill but Mr McClelland said he may not give outright support.”

    I guess the devil is in the detail on this one. Who sought the meeting? For what purpose did the person who sought the meeting seek the meeting?

    But I return to my wager and my bookie – if (somehow) McClelland and Rudd are at odds on this one, what’s the likely outcome?

    I guess your response may still be that that they are NOT at odds, that Rudd IS with McClelland. But – at this stage – especially given this evening’s interviews, this seems highly speculative to me.

  15. mbahnisch says:

    Well, I don’t know if they’re at odds, Roger, because Rudd hasn’t made himself clear.

    As to the purpose of the meeting, obviously if the Commonwealth has the power to disallow ACT legislation in this area (which it used in 2006), McClelland was meeting with Simon Corbell to discuss how the legislation can be framed so as to avoid the use of that disallowance power.

    Perhaps they were just intending to meet for an iced vovo and a chat, but I doubt it.

  16. Roger Lamb says:

    Mark writes:

    “As to the purpose of the meeting, obviously if the Commonwealth has the power to disallow ACT legislation in this area (which it used in 2006), McClelland was meeting with Simon Corbell to discuss how the legislation can be framed so as to avoid the use of that disallowance power.”

    At least equally likely (given the evidence so far before us), Corbell was meeting with McClelland to discuss how the legislation can be framed so as to avoid the use of the disallowance party. Which, of course, would go to what’s going on in Corbell’s head, not McClelland’s. -Beware “obviously”.

    In any event, there’s no magic in avoiding the use of the disallowance power – all that’s required is not to use it.

    At

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/06/2111980.htm

    on whether (the degree to which?) Rudd has made himself clear:

    “Mr Rudd says he does not plan to interfere in ACT business.

    ‘The question of legislation of the type that you speak, it’s always been our view as the Labor Party that that lies properly within the prerogative of the states, and that remains our position,’ he said.”

  17. mbahnisch says:

    Forgive me, Roger, but you seem to be going round in circles with all this. I don’t see that it’s unreasonable to have an apprehension that because the ACL claims Kevin Rudd gave them a written promise that there would be no state or territory laws that “mimic marriage” and that wording is in ALP policy that he would keep the promise!

  18. David Rubie says:

    What exactly is the ACL doing trying to blackmail the government over what is essentially a secular issue? Worse, what was Rudd doing making promises to them? It was obvious he was trying to avoid wedges here and there, but the whole gay marriage issue didn’t get a guernsey for the entire election campaign. Surely, McClelland and Rudd wouldn’t be that stupid so early in the term. Unseemly tourism my fat bum – it’s the perfect way to shepherd the issue through in one jurisdiction and show that the sky doesn’t fall in, no mighty lightning bolts are thrown from the heavens and nobody is turned into a pillar of salt.

    I thought I would be retired from writing “Angry of Armidale” letters to the federal government for a couple of years, but sadly that obviously isn’t the case. To my proud collection of useless responses from the Howard government, will I have to start adding useless responses from the Rudd government? Say it ain’t so!

  19. Graham Bell says:

    Mark and All:
    I’m as straight as a die and I’ve got my own strong religious beliefs but a non-heterosexual couple formalizing their relationship in public is no threat whatsoever to me nor to those I cherish.

    This nonsense is both hypocritical and unjust. Whatever happened to the good old Aussie tradition of A Fair Go?

    Anyway, there was a fair bit of enlightened discussion on civil unions and related matters on the Bartlett Diaries a few months back. [Sorry, haven’t worked out yet how to make links with the software here].

  20. Jack Strocchi says:

    Obviously Rudd is more of a cultural conservative than Larva Prodders hoped. The Wets are still on the back foot, at the federal level at least. So much for Kim’s naive belief that Rudd is “Left” on all the issues.

  21. Sans Blog says:

    Today’s Age has more positive news:

    “SAME-SEX Australian couples may be able to have their relationship formally recognised as early as next year, after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would not overrule laws permitting civil unions.”

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/rudd-gives-states-gay-rights/2007/12/06/1196812922344.html

  22. Roger Lamb says:

    Mark writes at #17 above:

    “Forgive me, Roger, but you seem to be going round in circles with all this. I don’t see that it’s unreasonable to have an apprehension that because the ACL claims Kevin Rudd gave them a written promise that there would be no state or territory laws that “mimic marriage” and that wording is in ALP policy that he would keep the promise!”

    Don’t know about the circles. As to it’s not being unreasonable to have apprehensions in these matters, well, fair enough. But your opening statement, viz., “It’s very disappointing that Attorney-General Robert McClelland has taken an illiberal stand by refusing to permit the ACT government to legitimise commitment ceremonies for same sex couples,” struck me as rather more than an expression of apprehension. On its face, it was an expression of disappointment about a fait accompli. I thought such an expression was unjustified by the rest of the article.

    As to (mere) apprehension, personally I’m less likely to credit the ACL’s account of Labor committments than you seem to be – though even that account chiefly refers to Labor’s committment “not to support” this and that. On the other hand, if you have a reference to an ALP policy document that grounds your apprehension, I’d appreciate having it.

  23. Roger Lamb says:

    Interesting (ok, …recommended) reading at

    http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/news/local/general/rudds-allclear-for-gay-unions/1100462.html

    which includes this:

    “Spokesman for Gay lobby group Australian Coalition for Equality Rodney Croome said there was now nothing standing in the way of same-sex unions. ‘It certainly is a landmark not only for the ACT but for the entire nation,’ he said. ‘Australia has just jumped a hurdle and we’re not going back.’ Mr Croome said other states would feel more free to consider same-sex ceremonies.”

  24. Guy says:

    Agree with Mark – it was a disappointing commitment for Labor to make and one wonders whether it actually achieved anything for Labor anyway.

    What is probably more worthy of consideration is what the commitment prevented the Howard Government from achieving in terms of wedge politics. Howard would certainly have had a wedge to make something out of if Rudd had come out strongly in favour of gay marriage prior to the election.

    This is of course not to say we should be happy about Rudd’s commitment to the ACL, but it would be very surprising for Howard not to have jumped rabidly on any more progressive commitment on the topic, particularly given his utter desperation towards the end of the campaign.

  25. Katz says:

    From the ACL press release:

    Mr Wallace said that the Labor National Conference in April passed a resolution which said Labor would support state-based relationship registration only. The resolution explicitly committed Labor to ensure that any such scheme would not mimic marriage.

    Mr Wallace fears that the ACT government intends to institute some form of public recognition of same-sex relationships that replicate civil marriage as it is conducted in the ACT.

    Here is Section 7 of the ACT DOMESTIC ANIMALS ACT 2000

    SECT 7
    Registration—approval or refusal

    If an application for registration has been made in accordance with section 6, the registrar must, by written notice to the applicant—

    (a) register the dog; or

    (b) refuse to register the dog if the applicant is disqualified from keeping the dog, any dog, a dog of that kind or any animal.

    Would Mr Wallace consider that an adaptation of these procedures for recognition of same-sex relationships in the ACT comes too close to “mimicking marriage”?

  26. Dave Bath says:

    Without a formal thingy using a civil celebrant (at least), admin of pensions/insurance etc will be a nightmare. There are many more legal and financial consequences of same-sex union formalization than godparent-hood (I became a godparent through a civil celebrant), yet the latter are recognized with a registered celebrant yet same-sex unions aren’t.

  27. mbahnisch says:

    Well, I’m glad to hear what Rudd has said this morning. I agree with Guy that it was an unwise promise to have made to the ACL. Now, no doubt, they’ll be ranting about broken promises.

    The Wets are still on the back foot, at the federal level at least.

    Earth to Strocchiverse!

  28. […] appears to think that what he might characterise as a marriage of convenience (or perhaps a civil union formalised by an election night ceremony?) between the left and the new ALP government is bound to […]

  29. derrida derider says:

    Well, at least the first non-core promise of the new government was made to bigots who deserved to be lied to.

    But the unnoticed-at-the-time little gap in meaning between “won’t support” and “will veto” is very Rodent-like.

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