Page 2759 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013

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The existing Civil Unions Act 2012 allows people who are unable to marry under the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 to enter into a legally recognised union that is treated for all purposes under territory law in the same way as a marriage.

The content of the marriage equality bill will be consistent with bills tabled in other Australian jurisdictions, including South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. These bills share five key, common features: first, all same-sex marriages must be performed by a celebrant authorised by the relevant jurisdiction’s marriage equality act; second, each party must consent, be an adult and not be lawfully married under the Marriage Act 1961; third, each bill specifies the period prior to the intended ceremony by which a notice of intention to marry must be lodged; fourth, each bill specifies the process for dissolution and annulment of a same-sex marriage, including the appropriate court; and, fifthly and finally, each bill contains regulatory requirements concerning celebrants and how they must be authorised to perform same-sex marriages, as well as their obligations with respect to lodging documentation for the register.

This bill provides recognition that all people are entitled to respect, dignity, the right to participate in society and to receive the full protection of the law regardless of gender or sexuality. Central to these principles is section 8 of the Human Rights Act 2004, the right to recognition and equality before the law, without discrimination of any kind.

The best possible outcome would be for national equality—a national scheme that provides for and recognises marriage, regardless of sex or gender. In the absence of such a law, the ACT government is committed to providing for marriage for people who are not eligible to marry under the Marriage Act.

Over 1,700 Canberrans, including many of my fellow Ginninderrans, identified themselves as a partner in a same sex-couple in the last census. In Canberra, these same-sex couples as a proportion of all couples were 1.1 per cent, the same as Sydney, and a higher percentage than other capital cities and higher than the national average.

As with heterosexual couples, not all same-sex couples might want, or feel the need, to marry, but like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples should have the right to make this decision for themselves. It is not for a government to tell same-sex couples what they can or cannot do, or that they cannot legally marry.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4.39): I thank Dr Bourke for bringing this matter before the Assembly. Reading the title of the matter of public importance, it is “the importance of legally recognising same-sex relationships in the Canberra community”. I would certainly agree with the importance of the legal rights of people who are in same-sex relationships. I welcome the fact that there are laws in that regard that allow people in same-sex relationships to have the same ability in terms of things like wills, in financial matters and so on, as do people in heterosexual relationships. I think that is a very important and fundamental point.

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