THE planned re-introduction of civil unions and state-sanctioned ceremonies in Queensland will likely be rejected by the Opposition Liberal National Party (LNP).
There is also some confusion surrounding the reported plan by Noosa state LNP MP Glen Elmes to cross the floor and vote with Labor to pass the amendments later this year: a plan that has been praised by one gay rights advocate as showing “principals”.
Last week, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath introduced amendments that would see the return of civil unions and state-sanctioned ceremonies that were introduced under the former Bligh Labor government in 2011.
When the Newman LNP Government was elected in 2012, one of its first acts was to strip civil unions back to “registered relationships” and prohibit state-sanctioned ceremonies.
When re-introducing the legislation, D’Ath said officially recognising same-sex relationships in Queensland required more dignity than just assigning a number.
“There is more to acknowledging a relationship than assigning it a particular legal status or registration number,” she said.
“It is about making a formal commitment to our significant other in front of our loved ones, and celebrating the love and value we bring to each other’s lives.”
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the issue of same-sex relationship recognition was best left to a potential national vote flagged by the former and current prime ministers.
“The Marriage Act remains the sole domain of the Commonwealth Government,” Springborg said in a statement to the Star Observer.
“After the next Federal Election, the government has indicated Australians will be able to have their say on same-sex marriage.
“At a state level, it is vital our laws reflect the views of Australians from this vote.”
Springborg said same-sex partners were currently able to enter into state-recognised relationships and that there are greater issues facing the state.
“Civil partnerships and registered relationships remain legal in Queensland for any couples wishing to enter such an arrangement,” he said.
“In the meantime, Queenslanders are telling me that jobs remain the main priority at a state level.”
Speaking to Fairfax, the state Opposition Leader said that while the LNP has not yet studied the bill, it would likely oppose it.
“Our preliminary view would be that the state parliament should not pass laws that pre-empt the view of Australians who Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed will have a say on same-sex marriage at a referendum should a Turnbull Liberal-National Government be re-elected,” Springborg said.
“There are good people on both sides of this debate, and their views should be respected.
“It would be wrong to allow for same-sex civil union ceremonies that mimic marriage ceremonies to proceed ahead of Australians themselves being given a say on the issue of same-sex marriage.”
Speaking to the Star Observer, Brisbane-based Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays national spokesperson Shelley Argent said despite marriage equality possibly being voted on soon, it was the uncertainty surrounding federal action on the issue that made reinstating civil unions necessary.
“We don’t know when marriage equality will actually be introduced, because if Malcolm Turnbull decides to wait and have a plebiscite, no one knows when that will be or if it will be compulsory,” Argent said.
“Labor is showing it’s keeping its promise by not procrastinating by waiting to see what federal government will do. Waiting for the outcome of a plebiscite could still take years to achieve.”
According to Argent, current Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is a “leader of LGBTI rights”.
“Her government promised to address the discrimination imposed by the LNP and that’s exactly what they are doing,” Argent said.
“Annastacia and her team recognise the need for people to feel included and recognised by their government which lifts self esteem, productivity and economy because people feel that they are part of a supportive, not repressive community.
“Springborg and LNP cannot support regardless of their logic (or excuses) because they repealed [civil unions]. The LNP will never be considered friends of LGBTI.”
Referring to some reports that Noosa state LNP MP Glen Elmes was planning to cross the floor when the civil unions bill is brought to debate around November, Argent said it showed that some in the LNP were looking to avoid repeating past missteps with the LGBTI community.
“However with Glen Elmes stating he will cross the floor on this issue, shows that some do have principals and don’t want to be part of the deliberate and active discrimination imposed by the previous government,” she said.
According to some sources, the Star Observer understood that Elmes was preparing to cross the floor to vote with Labor. However, when his office was contacted for comment there were suggestions that the MP may have been “misquoted” by the media.
No further comment was provided by time of print.