Page 3650 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Currently couples are able to have commitment ceremonies before or after they enter into a civil partnership. In some cases commitment ceremonies are attended by staff of the registrar-general who take possession of the application documentation and return it to the office for processing.
Commitment ceremonies do not legally create the partnership. The partnership is only legally created later in the office when the registrar-general processes the paperwork and endorses the application. Our bill will remove that confusing and unfair situation by providing that the ceremony itself will create the relationship.
These commitment ceremonies are a halfway step to equality for same-sex couples but do not go far enough. This bill goes the extra necessary step to ensure that all couples have access to the same rights. Members of the Assembly will be reasonably well aware of the provisions of this bill, especially those who were members during the previous Assembly. However, today I will set out briefly exactly what the bill will do in the interests of clarity.
Firstly, the bill will give couples a choice of how they enter a civil partnership. The current process of making an application to the registrar-general will remain. The bill will insert a second way in which a couple may enter a civil partnership, by inserting the ceremony option. The making of a declaration at the ceremony will legally create the civil partnership.
Secondly, the bill will provide for members of the public to apply to the registrar-general to become civil partnership notaries. For a ceremony to legally create a civil partnership under the act, the ceremony must include a declaration by each person before a civil partnership notary. It will then be the responsibility of the notary to take the declaration back to the registrar-general and get the partnership included on the register.
Thirdly, the bill will expand the range of equivalent relationships in other jurisdictions that can be recognised for the purposes of territory law. Currently, relationships in the other Australian states and territory can be recognised under ACT law. The bill will expand this to include the ability to recognise relationships from other countries.
Finally, the bill will make consequential amendments to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 and the regulations.
I spoke earlier about the commentary on this bill. It has been fascinating to observe the different attitudes and how social change comes about. There have been two threads to the adverse commentary on this. The first is a view that we should not even be trying on this because we ultimately might be defeated: we may not win. The second is that we are wasting the Assembly’s time in canvassing the issue. The editorial in today’s Canberra Times rolls both of these together in a completely defeatist case.
On the first, let me say that the bottom line is that nothing ever changes if you do not try. I have always liked the way Andy Warhol captured that sentiment. He said, “They