Cairns Regional Council plans to launch a same-sex couple register.

Reports suggest the register would offer an alternative to marriage for gay, lesbian and transgender couples.

According to the Cairns Post, an alliance of local support groups is working with the council on the register as a way of providing official recognition of same-sex relationships.

Proponents say it would provide a sense of wellbeing for same-sex couples and provide a legal mechanism to make it easier for them to prove their relationship. Similar relationship registers already exist in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania on both a state and local government level. Queensland does not have a statewide register.

Cairns Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Alliance spokesman Nick Thompson, who is standing for a council seat, said the register would be the “next best thing” to marriage.

“We’re pleased that the council is now developing a policy about how the register might work, including a consultation period where the public can have a say,” he said.

“It will be great for Cairns couples but also has benefits for tourists who might want to visit Cairns to have their relationship formally recognised.

“In a lot of cases people in same-sex relationships who can’t have a formal ceremony use these types of registers. They can have benefits for their overall wellbeing.”

Same-sex marriage is expected to be debated at this year’s Labor Party National Conference, to be held in Sydney on December 3.

On Monday it was suggested the party may push ahead with a conscience vote rather than face a potentially divisive debate at the conference.

Marriage equality activists said the ALP should change its stance as a party rather than taking the conscience vote route.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Peter Furness said the party should change its position after almost every state and territory Labor branch has voted in favour of reform.

“The party rank-and-file clearly want this discriminatory policy to be overturned and for traditional Labor and Australian values like equality and a fair go to be asserted,” Furness said.

“Subverting the wishes of the party’s rank and file with a backroom, pre-conference deal will open the Labor Party up to criticism of being undemocratic.

“If anti-equality MPs want to lobby the party for a conscience vote that is a matter for them, but it should be after the party has been allowed to show its overwhelming support for reform.”

Recent polling suggests a majority of Australians are in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.

MPs are due to report back to federal Parliament on Wednesday with the views of their electorate on the issue.

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