The Victorian Relationships Bill is a good start, say activists, but it fails to address several fundamental points.
Gay rights group Civil Union Action (CUA) says the Relationships Bill is an important step forward, but it’s in urgent need of improvement when it goes to the State Upper House.
The bill is expected to be debated in the Legislative Council in the week commencing April 8 or April 15.
Cabinet Secretary Tony Lupton, who shepherded the bill through the lower house, said the measure was based on the Tasmanian scheme, because that seemed to have been well received in the broader community.
However, under the Tasmanian law, legal overseas same-sex partnerships, including marriages, are automatically recognised in Tasmania as registered partnerships.
The Victorian law does not recognise any other legal partnerships from elsewhere.
No, it doesn’t do that, and the reason is that we find that the way in which we’re able to legislate is really for people who reside in Victoria, so anyone who is a resident of Victoria and able to go through the progress can register here, Lupton said.
CUA spokesperson John Klopprogge says there’s no reason why the Victorian Bill shouldn’t recognise other legally partnered couples from elsewhere.
If the Tasmanian law can do it, why can’t ours? he asked.
I’d like to see Mr Lupton’s legal advice on that one.
The Victorian bill also fails to address the issue of adoption. Lupton said it was never intended to.
Those matters are more appropriately dealt with through the federal-state ministerial council of community service ministers responsible for adoption, he said. A comprehensive cooperative system is needed.
Klopprogge said, We can understand why Tony Lupton and the state government would want to handball responsibility for both these issues to other state governments or the federal government, to try and avoid any political downside for themselves. But I think that’s a misplaced fear on their part. They are being overly cautious.
Lupton disagreed. I think the way we’ve done this in Victoria is the most likely to succeed in bringing the whole community along and making sure that relationship recognition becomes something that is, frankly, mainstream in the community, he said.
Klopprogge said there is still time for members of the gay community to lobby their Legislative Council member to get amendments put forward, and is hopeful that many will be.
Since the Opposition allowed a conscience vote in the lower house they will probably allow one in the upper house, which means members can do what they will. And some of the concerns raised by CUA were echoed by Liberal members during the lower house debate, he said.
The government holds 19 of the 40 seats in the Legislative Council, and so will need the support of at least two other members to pass the bill.
The Greens are expected to try to extract further concessions from the government in return for their support, and it is rumoured that one or two left-leaning Liberals will also move amendments of their own. The Nationals are expected to continue their outright opposition.