By Patrick B. Craine
CANBERRA, Australia, November 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has legalized civil partnership ceremonies for homosexuals.
Same-sex couples in the ACT have been able to register their union since last year, but were not permitted a ceremony.
The legislature of the territory, where the nation’s parliament is located, passed the bill on Wednesday, following an amendment banning opposite-sex couples from obtaining the civil unions. The bill was moved by the ACT’s Greens party.
The ACT’s amendment was passed so as to satisfy federal requirements that such unions not mimic marriage.
"We understand that this is not same-sex marriage," said Shane Rattenbury, the Greens member who drafted the bill. "This legislation is another step along the road to full equality for same-sex couples in Australia, and we are delighted that the assembly has passed it today."
The federal Commonwealth Parliament, which has the power to override legislation passed in the country’s two territories, has strongly opposed same-sex "marriage," and the ACT legislature has been fighting with them for same-sex civil unions since 2006.
That year, the ACT passed legislation approving same-sex civil unions, but their attempt was struck down by then-Governor General Michael Jeffery on the advice of then-Attorney General Philip Ruddock.
The law would have effectively granted same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples, simply leaving out the term "marriage." At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard said the ACT’s move sought to undermine the nation’s 2004 Marriage Amendment Bill, which established marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and specifically excluded same-sex "marriage."
Regarding the current bill, one member of the ACT’s legislature, Vicki Dunne, who serves as shadow attorney-general, predicted that the federal government would stop the bill. "It is almost certain the Commonwealth will intervene," she told the Telegraph. "It still sounds like a marriage and it still feels like a marriage and therefore it probably is a marriage."
Last year, the federal government granted new legal and financial benefits to same-sex couples by making changes to about 100 federal laws. Nevertheless, they continued to declare their intention to uphold the true definition of marriage.
"The government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman so it won’t amend the marriage act," said Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Australia’s Senate has now initiated an inquiry into the Marriage Amendment Bill, however, hearing arguments this week both for and against same-sex "marriage." The submissions the committee received, totalling more than 20,000, were against same-sex "marriage" by a ratio of two to one.
This Report from LifeSiteNews.com
By Piero A. Tozzi
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 12, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Activist organization Amnesty International is putting its weight behind an Australian bill seeking to legalize "same-sex marriage" in that country, claiming that "internationally recognized" non-discrimination norms dictate such a result.
In a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Australia’s Senate, Amnesty’s Australian affiliate contends that laws limiting the right to marry to opposite-sex couples amounts to "arbitrary discrimination" in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The group further interprets a provision of the ICCPR guaranteeing adults the right to enter into "consensual marriage" as applying to same-sex couplings. Critics contend this distorts the meaning of the word "marriage" without regard to context and the apparent intent of the drafters. The ICCPR provision cited, Article 23, states that "The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized," and that "No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses."
Underscoring what critics say is the problem of United Nations (UN) treaty monitoring bodies exceeding their mandates and seeking to reinterpret treaties to include novel concepts not agreed upon by those who negotiated or ratified the treaties, Amnesty asserts that "For more than a decade, non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been an internationally recognized principle which has been endorsed by UN treaty bodies and numerous inter-governmental human rights bodies." Specifically, Amnesty cites interpretations of the ICCPR and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by their respective treaty monitoring bodies as forming a soft-law jurisprudence in favor of a new non-discrimination category.
The creation of such a non-discrimination category is hotly-contested among UN member states, however. To date, efforts to enshrine "sexual-orientation and gender identity" as a category on par with ones such as race and religion in a legally binding document have been repeatedly rejected.
Amnesty points to a French-initiated statement signed by roughly 65 member states, including Australia, last December asserting the existence of a non-discrimination category based on sexual orientation and gender identity in support of Amnesty’s call to allow same-sex couples to enter into "a legally binding union of couples, otherwise known as marriage." The Amnesty submission contends that preventing "same-sex couples from entering into a legally binding union on the basis of sexual orientation" contravenes "the statement Australia supported in the UN General Assembly last year."
A contemporaneous counterstatement, however, signed by nearly 60 nations, principally from the Islamic world, Africa and Oceania, along with independent statements made by Russia, Belarus and the Holy See, pointed out that no non-discrimination category based on sexual orientation and gender identity exists in international law. Amnesty’s submission makes no reference to the counterstatement.
Critics of the French-led statement pointed out at the time that, though non-binding and supported by only a minority of member states, advocates would hail it as a soft-law norm signaling of a movement by states toward a rights-based acceptance of homosexual conduct – in this particular case, using it to place same-sex unions on par with marriage.
This Report from LifeSiteNews.com
Christian lobbyists in the UK are calling a pending EU directive that would introduce a policy similar to Britain’s Sexual Orientation Regulations to all member states, a “threat to religious freedom.” Pro-family activists fear that the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected grounds for discrimination may leave European Christians and others vulnerable to legal actions, reports Hilary White, LifeSiteNews.com.
The proposed directive aims to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services and may also outlaw ‘harassment.’
Critics have also said that the directive would mean that countries which legally recognise same-sex civil partnerships would be required to expand their provisions to include homosexual adoption. It is also feared that the directive’s definition of harassment is so broad that even explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or those of other religions like Islam, could fall foul of the law.
In April 2008, the BBC reported that the directive had been “shelved.” Jan Jarab of the Employment Department of the Commission told the BBC that “signals” from some member states indicated that there would not be the required unanimous consent on a blanket anti-discrimination law that would include “sexual orientation.”
In May 2008, however, the European Parliament issued a memo reminding MEPs of the “commitment to put forward a comprehensive directive covering disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.”
Accordingly, the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) last week voted to approve the final version of its report on the issue. This will now go to the EU Parliament for a vote in early April on whether to adopt the report as its own recommendations on the directive. Power to enact, amend or reject the directive lies with the Council of the European Union, a body composed of government representatives from each of the 27 member states.
The Christian Institute, the UK’s most prominent Christian lobby group, argues that similar laws in the UK and other nations have caused serious erosion of religious liberty and the exclusion of Christianity from the public sphere.
The Christian Institute called the “harassment” provision one of the “most alarming” aspects of the proposed legislation. The directive defines it as the creation of an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”
(With files from the Christian Institute)
Report from the Christian Telegraph
The executive board of the California Southern Baptist Convention unanimously endorsed the state’s proposed constitutional marriage amendment during its meeting Sept. 11-12 and encouraged Southern Baptists in the state to do the same, reports Baptist Press.
The amendment, known as Proposition 8, will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot and would define marriage as between one man and one woman, thus overturning a May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing “gay marriage.” The board passed a resolution acknowledging the Bible as the “Word of God” and the “standard by which all human conduct and religious opinion should be measured.” (See the full text of the resolution at the bottom of this story).
The resolution acknowledges: “The Bible also teaches that marriage was the first institution ordained by God at the beginning of creation when it was established between Adam, a male, and Eve, a female, as the pattern for all time.”
The resolution calls on California Southern Baptists to pray about the issue and conduct voter registration drives through Oct. 20, the cutoff date for voter registration. The resolution urges pastors to inform their congregations of issues related to the ballot measure and encourages them to participate in the grassroots effort.
Additionally, the resolution encourages California Southern Baptists to financially support Proposition 8. The resolution points to Internet resources such as those at www.csbc.com/protectmarriage, www.ProtectMarriage.com and www.protectmarriageca.com .
In presenting the recommendation to the executive board, Don Fugate, communications committee chairman and pastor of Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, said the resolution is something all California Southern Baptists should support, and that he believes it is at the core of what Baptists believe about the family.
Following is the complete text of the resolution supporting Proposition 8:
“WHEREAS, The Bible is the Word of God, written by men, but divinely inspired, the Bible also is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is God-breathed and inerrant, and all Scripture is true and trustworthy. It is the standard by which all human conduct and religious opinion should be measured; and
“WHEREAS, The Bible teaches that God loves all people and commands us to do likewise; the Bible also teaches that marriage was the first institution ordained by God at the beginning of creation when it was established between Adam, a male, and Eve, a female, as the pattern for all time. Since the beginning of time societies, cultures and religions have endorsed marriage as the union between one man and one woman for a lifetime. Marriage provides the framework for intimate companionship, the avenue of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation. It also is God’s unique gift to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and His church; and
“WHEREAS, The family unit that God intended — a father, a mother and children — has fallen into disarray while the divorce rate in our state and nation is at an all-time high, and the percentage rate of divorce in the general population is reflected in the church; and
“WHEREAS, California voters in 2000, by more than 61 percent of the vote, approved Proposition 22 which reads, ‘Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California;’ and
“WHEREAS, The California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, disregarded the will of the people on May 15, 2008 by striking down Proposition 22, thereby granting marriage privileges to ‘same-sex’ couples; and
“WHEREAS, Same-sex marriage is legally unnecessary since homosexual couples in California already are entitled to all the legal rights and privileges of marriage, short of the name; now, therefore be it
“RESOLVED That the California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board, meeting September 12, 2008, endorse Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment that states, ‘Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California;’ and be it further
“RESOLVED That California Southern Baptist Convention churches and members are urged to pray about this important issue, and that at least 7 million Californians will vote for traditional, biblical marriage; and be it further
“RESOLVED That churches are encouraged to conduct voter registration drives between now and October 20 since as many as 50 percent of Christian eligible voters are not registered to carry out this civic privilege; and be it further
“RESOLVED That California Southern Baptist Convention pastors are urged to inform their congregations of the issues and encourage them to participate in the grassroots effort; and be it further
“RESOLVED That California Southern Baptists be encouraged to financially support Proposition 8 by making donations to ProtectMarriage.com by Oct. 10; and be it finally
“RESOLVED That California Southern Baptist Convention church leaders are urged to avail themselves of resources provided on the World Wide Web at www.csbc.com/protectmarriage , www.protectmarriage.com , and www.protectmarriageca.com .”
Report from the Christian Telegraph