Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has announced he will amend the state’s Civil Partnerships Act to preclude same-sex couples from having a state-sanctioned ceremony.
In a press conference this afternoon, Newman said that the Act will otherwise remain intact but that the changes were a demonstration of “good faith” to Christian churches who lobbied to repeal civil unions because they emulated marriage.
“The Civil Partnerships Act allows legal certification which streamlines administrative matters when same-sex couples apply for entitlements with the Government,” Newman said.
“The amendments will keep those legal rights but provide for no state-sanctioned ceremony… which is what offended Christian groups.”
Newman said the decision was made after a lengthy discussion with cabinet and talks with church representatives, but admitted he hadn’t consulted with the LGBT community, saying he’d spoken with advocates before the election and knew where they stood.
He also announced that celebrants who applied to be notaries for same-sex civil union ceremonies would have their application fee refunded.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced last month that he was examining the possibility of a full or partial repeal of civil union laws and sought legal advice on available alternatives, admitting all options were on the table.
Before the March election, Newman initially said he would not contemplate scrapping the laws if civil unions had already occurred, and that a repeal wasn’t a priority if he became premier.
He then appeared to backflip, pledging his support for a full repeal while speaking at an Australian Christian Lobby event in February, as long as it didn’t leave couples in “legal limbo”.
Action on civil unions was also not mentioned in the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) first 100-day plan released just prior to their election victory.
The LNP opposed the laws when they were debated in Parliament last year.
One of the first couples to register their civil union under the new laws told the Star Observer in May that a full or partial repeal would be devastating.
“It would feel like being treated like an animal, being declassified by [the Government] saying your relationship isn’t like everybody else’s,” Michael O’Brien said.
“If they’re going to change it to a relationship register, I mean that just sounds like something for pets.
“It would signal that our relationships were not valid, not equal.”
O’Brien and his partner Anthony Gillespie registered their union with the Brisbane Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages on February 23.
More than 600 civil unions have been registered since their introduction in February.