Page 659 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 28 March 2006

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order to have their relationship formally recognised in the ACT. The basis on which a birth, death or marriage is registered by the ACT Registrar-General is simply that the event happens in the ACT. Similarly, a civil union will be entered on the ACT register if, and only if, it happens in the ACT.

The process for entering a civil union requires that the parties first give notice of their intention to an authorised celebrant. This notice must be given at least one month before the event. The parties then make a declaration to the effect that they are entering into the civil union with the other person and that they are doing so of their own free will. This declaration must be made before the authorised celebrant and at least one other witness. The bill also provides for termination of a civil union. This does not require an order of the court, although it may be done by an order of the court. The usual method would be to give notice to the Registrar-General, with this notice taking effect automatically 12 months after it is given, unless it is withdrawn within that time.

Whilst I am satisfied the ACT is doing all it can to afford equal protection under the law to all people regardless of their sex or sexual orientation, it must be recognised that, without changes in the federal jurisdiction, this equal treatment will be limited to the ACT. My challenge to the federal government is to end its discriminatory treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians and to amend federal laws so that relationships of same-sex couples are treated in the same way as relationships of opposite sex couples.

Today the government moves to eliminate one of the last remaining legal impediments to the full equality of gays and lesbians in our community—a process begun in our first term of government and now in its final stages. It has been an important journey for a community that is committed to equality and respect for the basic human rights of others and an acceptance and celebration of diversity. Conferring equality on those who have historically been discriminated against under the law does nothing to diminish the rights of those who have always been protected by that law. If anything, it heightens the value of that protection by highlighting the importance of extending rights to all, not just a chosen few or a chosen majority.

The equality conferred by this bill is not only functional and practical but also highly symbolic. A civil union will not simply be evidence of a loving, lifelong commitment between two people, with a piece of paper as proof; it will create the relationship being recognised. It is a distinction some may find subtle but to the many same-sex couples who will use this law I suspect it is anything but subtle; it is critical. I commend the Civil Unions Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.

Motor Sport (Public Safety) Bill 2006

Detail stage

Debate resumed from 9 March 2006.

The bill.

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