Monday, 21 September 2015

Queensland: a welcome step back to the future on civil partnerships

The Palaszczuk Government in Queensland has gone back to the future with civil partnerships, but in the process made an advance towards equality.

In the dying days of the Bligh Government, the Civil Partnerships Act was passed, which recognised for the first time civil unions in Queensland, called civil partnerships, which involved a cooling off period and a public ceremony.  Civil partnerships were open to both opposite sex and same sex couples.

Following the election of the Newman Government, the Australian Christian Lobby lobbied hard to rid Queensland of civil partnerships.  The Newman Government declined to do that, but instead said it took a ‘balanced’ approach to the issue, by renaming them ‘registered relationships’ and getting rid of the public ceremony.  The recognition of these relationships now came down to the execution of a form.

 Many were upset at this rewinding of rights.  Labor promised as part of its electoral platform to reinstate civil partnerships.  It has come good with its promise, the bill being tabled before the Queensland Parliament last week.

The bill takes us back to the 2011 version, which is to allow public ceremonies, so that couples can show their love to each other in front of friends and family and have a faith based ceremony if their religion allows that.

This is a welcome step.

There has been some suggestion that the bill does not allow the recognition of relationships that are interstate or overseas.  On careful checking, the 2012 amendments by the Newman Government did not alter the 2011 bill on this point in substance.  The recognition of interstate and overseas civil unions is contained separately under regulations.  If there is a deficiency with the places that ought to be named, that is something that could be easily fixed by the Government, not parliament.

I understand that the bill will be available for submissions through the parliamentary committee process.  This is a marked change to the 2012 amendments which were rushed through by the Newman Government without the scrutiny of the parliamentary committee process.

The consultative process adopted by the Palaszczuk Government on this bill is also welcome.

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