Gay and lesbian rights advocates have welcomed the introduction of the NSW Relationships Register Bill as a “first step” towards wider achievements.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby policy coordinator Senthorun Raj praised the level of support for the bill from all sides of politics.

“Equality before the law is a basic principle and no party should discriminate against any particular population group,” Raj said.

“Typically most same-sex law reform has happened under Labor governments. It was pleasing to see members of both parties support same-sex relationship rights.

“This is a step forward that could mobilise a bill to amend the NSW adoption act ­— the last piece of legislation to directly discriminate against same-sex couples. We hope the recognition this provides will help continue those discussions around adoption reform.”

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam welcomed the shift in Government attitude.

“In 12 months NSW has gone from being opposed to a relationship register to being convinced,” he told Sydney Star Observer.

“NSW has also raised the bar for other states, by allowing for interstate recognition.

“It was unfortunate to see no ceremonies included. In 2010, one would think the ability to publicly affirm your relationship wouldn’t be controversial, and that should have been included in the scheme.

“But as we’ve seen in other parts of the country, no [registers] have been introduced with a ceremony in the first phase.

“People need to remember that this is not marriage. It is designed so that people who are in same-sex relationships that may not meet the de facto criteria can now receive recognition. Or if they do meet the criteria, they don’t have to burden themselves with a whole bunch of proof papers.”

NSW Greens leader Lee Rhiannon said the bill was a welcome move, but regretted more had not been done to acknowledge the cause for same-sex marriage.

“The second reading was really an opportunity for [NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos] to say quite clearly that this is an historic and important step, but one that doesn’t go far enough,” she said.

“This is not marriage ­­— which is what must be granted to ensure full and equal rights for gay and lesbian couples. The failure of the minister to do so was disappointing.

“There should have been more acknowledgement this doesn’t do the full job, and the NSW Government could have urged their federal colleagues to look at marriage equality.”

She raised concern over the Government’s decision to introduce the legislation on federal budget night ­— a factor which led to 20 Labor ministers being absent for the lower house vote, including NSW Premier Kristina Keneally.

“To look at it politically, in the context of coming into an election, they are being overly cautious around a lot of these issues,” Rhiannon said.

A spokeswoman from Keneally’s office said, “although Premier Keneally was not in the chamber for the vote, the legislation was reintroduced by her Government and endorsed by her Cabinet and the Labor caucus.

“This legislation follows a request from the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, last year, encouraging the states to establish nationally consistent relationship registration schemes.”

Choice Quotes from the Chamber

Helen Westwood MLC
ALP

I am sure it has never occurred to those members that in exercising their right, as they see it, to a conscience vote to uphold discriminatory laws they deny other Australian men and women rights afforded to all Australians not in same-sex relationships.
It is also worth reflecting on the human worth of members of our society. Again, I read their contributions and I find it astounding that there is no acknowledgement of the contribution of gay men and lesbians to our society, no acknowledgement that they do great things as members of our community. Their contribution makes positive differences to our communities and to society. They are willing to judge us on the basis of our intimate relationships. In fact, they think our intimate relationships give them the right to deny us rights afforded to all other Australians. I certainly look forward to the day when we are measured for our human worth and contributions in the same way as other Australians who are not gay or lesbian.

Michael Veitch MLC,
ALP

This bill is an important step forward in the broader debate for a sane, rational society that respects gay, lesbian and transgender couples.

Trevor Khan MLC,
National Party

All are entitled to our love, all are entitled to our support and all are entitled to equal treatment.

Andrew Stoner MLA,
National Party

I say to de facto couples who want to express some form of lasting relationship: what better way is there to do so than marriage?
Rev Fred Nile, MLC
Christian Democratic Party

There is a lot of evidence available to show why we should not proceed down the path of same-sex marriage, for which this bill will provide a platform.

Dr Gordon Moyes MLC,
Family First

Society rests upon the strength of its marriages, families, homes, and preparation of the new generation. Homosexuals, generally speaking, are not talking about that at all.

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