Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has defended Labor’s relationship registries commitment for the first time against criticism it was a “watered down” version of same-sex marriage.
“We believe that’s an appropriate way to go,” Rudd said.
“A relationships register, nationally consistent, of the type we’ve had in Tasmania since 2004 and of the type which the Victorian government has recently proposed, we believe is a positive and productive way forward.”
He was responding to claims by Kerryn Phelps that several new ministers had promised national civil unions for same-sex couples during the election campaign rather than registries. Labor has denied the claims.
But Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome said he feared the Federal Government had misunderstood the registries amid the debate over ceremonies.
Croome called the Tasmanian registry a “ceremony on paper” rather than the verbal “I do” proposed by ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell in the Territory’s civil partnership bill, and otherwise equivalent.
Corbell told SSO’s sister publication bnews he would strongly defend the inclusion of optional verbal ceremonies as part of the ACT unions, but interstate couples may miss out.
“Our preference is not to have a residence requirement but I have to say that if that was the only sticking point between the legislation going ahead or not I think the government would be prepared to contemplate a residence requirement,” Corbell said.
Joint recognition of other union schemes such as Tasmania, UK and New Zealand will be decided by February.
Tasmania’s registry is already recognised as an equivalent civil union by foreign governments.
Rudd called for further consultation on same-sex relationship recognition over the next 12 months, in a move that may be designed to slow the ACT’s push.
“It’s complex, we’ve got to get it right,” he said.

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