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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 26 August 2009) . . Page.. 3649 ..

What do not fit the registry process in all situations are those once-in-a-lifetime events that shape our entire future and the future of those around us. Events such as taking up citizenship of a new country or forming a legally binding partnership with the person you love deserve the option of being more than a registry process decided on the papers. For some couples a registry process will be the path they wish to take, and it is important to recognise their right to choose that path. But we should also give couples the option to choose a public ceremony to solemnise their relationship.

This bill recognises that entry into a civil partnership is one of those rare life-changing moments that deserve the option of being marked publicly. The current operation of the legislation means that a ceremony does not have legal effect. Rather, it is the decision of the registrar-general back in the office that marks the commencement of the partnership.

Civil partnerships deserve more and this bill delivers that in the form of legally recognised ceremonies.

This sentiment was set out well by the campaign coordinator of Equal Love Canberra in an open letter to the Chief Minister. In the letter the campaign coordinator said: “We believe that loving relationships deserve support and equal recognition, regardless of the gender of the partners. Love and commitment deserves to be celebrated, for the good of society.”

In that sense, this bill is about what has meaning in our society and more exactly how we make meaning. The Greens believe it is right and proper that the most significant and meaningful moments in a lifetime be endowed with a social reality. By that I mean that the opportunity for those moments to be officiated publicly is incredibly important.

Without giving couples the extra option of having a ceremony, and legally recognising that ceremony, the law does not entirely recognise civil partnerships. It creates the potential for them to be regarded as something to be tolerated but not celebrated. It sets them up as something to be dealt with on the papers but not something that people should have an option of publicly engaging in. That is what this bill does. It fully recognises civil partnerships as deserving to be part of our society.

There are of course defined human rights contained in the Human Rights Act 2004 that this bill supports. At section 8, the act provides that “everyone has the right to recognition as a person before the law” and also that “everyone has the right to enjoy his or her human rights without distinction or discrimination of any kind”.

Recognising the rights of all couples to enter into a binding relationship publicly is the right thing to do. It is about ensuring equality and respect. In the words of section 8, it is about ensuring that all couples, regardless of their sexual preference, enjoy the same rights, free from discrimination.

One important thing to clarify at this stage is the role of ceremonies under the existing legislation. I do this for the avoidance of doubt but also because it draws out exactly what this bill will achieve.

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