Not long before midnight last night the Legislative Assembly passed the Civil Unions Bill to allow, among others, same sex couples to have their relationships legally recognised.
All the Labor MLAs present plus Green Deb Foskey voted for the Bill and the Liberals voted against it. Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja were absent from the vote.
The debate was reportedly highly charged and Andrew Barr in particular was very emotional, and apparently wept during his speech. A representative for queer activist group Good Process said they also thought the speeches made by Jon Stanhope, John Hargreaves, Simon Corbell and Deb Foskey were particularly moving and inspirational. ” It was great to see the Government respond to some of the cringe-worthy speeches from members of the opposition. Bourke & Dunne lived up to their reputations by really scraping the bottom of the barrel for some old chestnuts about homosexual relationships, marriage and children,” she said.
The Liberals had tried to introduce a compromise legislation for a register of same sex couples, much like Tasmania introduced about a year ago. However this was knocked down in favour of the Government’s Civil Unions bill, with amendments to make it more palatable to the Federal Government. These were:
1) Clearly define â€œa civil union is different to a marriage but is to be treated for all purposed under territory law in the same way as marriageâ€ (Section 5 of Bill).
2) Create a new register of Civil Union Celebrants to officiate these schemes (new Section 2A).
3) Amend to allow 16- and 17-year-olds only to enter into a Civil Union only if they receive Parents permission AND a court order (in exceptional circumstances the 16/17-year-old may be able to do so with only a court order) (Section 10).
4) Clarify recognition of a â€œunion entered into by any two people under the law of a foreign countryâ€ rather than recognition of a marriage solemnised in a foreign country (Section 19).
5) Clarification to the consequential amendments to spell out â€œmarriage OR civil unionâ€ rather than â€œmarriage includes a civil unionâ€ (throughout bill).
Now it the waiting will begin to see what, if anything, the Federal Government does about this new legislation which many Coalition members are morally opposed to.
UPDATE The ABC reports the public gallery was packed for the debate. They also say the new Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, is to write to the Federal Government to explain how the ammendments make the legislation unobjectionable.
UPDATE 2 The ABC further reports that federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says he would wait until he had seen the detail of the new Bill before deciding whether to chuck it out the window or not. The Canberra Times also had a wrap up of the bill’s passing, complete with human interest note via a former-Canberran gay couple who say they will come back from Sydney to get a civil union. The legislation has attracted international attention (Google News), particularly from New Zealand.