AN amendment to Victoria’s state relationships laws has been introduced with the aim to allow same-sex couples to have a ceremony conducted when registering their relationships.

The amendment to the Relationships Amendment Bill 2015, moved by Prahran state Greens MP Sam Hibbins, will be debated in the upper house of Victorian Parliament this week.

Hibbins said that while registering a relationship currently involves filling out paperwork, the amendment would also enable same-sex couples to hold a ceremony at the Victorian Marriage Registry.

“Obviously this bill would allow ceremonies to be conducted in conjunction with the registering of a relationship and in lieu of marriage equality I think this would be a modest and reasonable change,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s something I think would enable same-sex couples to commemorate the registering of a relationship in a celebratory way.

“It would allow these ceremonies to occur at the Victorian Marriage Registry which is the place where I had my marriage ceremony… it would be great to give same-sex couples the choice to have it as well.”

A formal ceremony involving the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages is not legislatively required for registration, something that would be unaffected by the Greens’ proposal.

However, Equality Minister Martin Foley believes the amendment is unnecessary.

“The recent amendment moved by the Greens demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of the legislation,” he told the Star Observer.

“There is nothing in the Victorian Relationships Act that precludes couples from holding a public ceremony or celebration to coincide with their decision to register their relationship.”

Foley added that his recently-formed LGBTI Taskforce have been asked to examine proposals for further reform of the Victorian Relationships Act.

In the Coalition, a spokesperson for Shadow Equality Minister David Davis indicated “he is likely to support a role for ceremonies where relationships are registered”.

While marriage equality is yet to be legislated in Australia, advocates have said they see these ceremonies as a step forward.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said it provided greater recognition of same-sex couples who register their relationship.

“Allowing state-based relationship ceremonies is not a substitute for equality in marriage, but it does provide greater dignity and recognition of same-sex couples who register a relationship,” he told the Star Observer.

“Tasmania has allowed official ceremonies for same-sex partners for several years without the sky falling in, so I can’t see why anyone would object to the same happening in Victoria.”

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