Same-sex couples in NSW will finally have access to a state relationship register.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos yesterday announced Government plans to establish state-based registers along the lines of those in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Tasmania.

“The register will ensure NSW is aligned with Commonwealth Government moves to remove discrimination against unmarried people in heterosexual and same-sex relationships,” Hatzistergos said.

“Couples who choose to register their relationship will be provided with one document that helps prove their relationship and will be spared the frustration of constantly having to supply agencies with copious amounts of paperwork.”

Couples eligible to register will need to be over 18 and in an exclusive relationship. One member of the couple will need to be a resident of NSW, and the couple must not be married or registered overseas.

Hatzistergos said work needs to be done on the legislation to ensure there was reciprocal recognition of relationships registered in other states.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby called the move encouraging, but said it would be no substitute for full marriage equality.

“A registration scheme for both heterosexual and same-sex couples provides a tangible and documented form of relationship recognition. However, it still lacks the symbolic and universal recognition that comes with marriage,” lobby co-convenor Benjamin Keats said.

Fellow co-convenor Kellie McDonald said the community wanted diverse forms of recognition.

“Registers are one form, however, the ultimate goal for same-sex relationship recognition is full marriage equality,” she told Sydney Star Observer.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Peter Furness called it “a good move” although he was concerned about provisos that could be placed on couples already registered overseas.

“There are many same-sex couples who are married elsewhere who may not be able to re-register in NSW,” he said. “That’s clearly an issue because we don’t have federal marriage laws.”

Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam shared this concern.

“Legislation should include an extension of this recognition to international schemes,” Irlam said.

“In addition, a NSW scheme should include mutual recognition of the Tasmanian, Victorian and ACT schemes. It would be ludicrous to think the moment you crossed state borders on holiday, your registered relationship wouldn’t be recognised.”

The move was welcomed as a stepping stone towards a nationally consistent system for recognising de facto couples.

“This is consistent with Labor Party policy for the establishment of state-based registration schemes and will put pressure on other states to act,” Furness said.

Gay Labor MLC Penny Sharpe also praised the move, calling it “another important step towards equality”.

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