NSW and other non-compliant states will face renewed federal pressure to introduce same-sex relationship registries at tomorrow’s national meeting of attorneys-general.

The quarterly meeting’s agenda is officially confidential, but federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s office issued a statement to Sydney Star Observer confirming he would pressure NSW, WA, QLD, NT and SA to implement the Labor Party’s same-sex register policy.

The Attorney-General will continue to encourage states and territories to implement a relationship register at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General  meeting in April, the spokesman said.

It follows last week’s circulated draft of the next ALP National Platform policy omnibus, which maintains same-sex registers as a state responsibility.

The NSW Government yesterday signalled it was softening on the relationship register platform after previously stating it is a Commonwealth responsibility.

NSW will continue to work with the Commonwealth at a national level on this issue to ensure that recognition of same-sex couples is uniform across the country, a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said.

Nearly halfway into its first term, the Rudd Government is yet to convince any additional states to implement the Labor Party’s state-based register policy. Victoria and the ACT had already planned relationship recognition schemes for same-sex couples before the Rudd Government’s election.

Hatzistergos was a vocal opponent at the time, but has since implemented parenting reforms for prospective lesbian mothers. Others in the NSW ALP have suggested registers are the next step.

Couples who have registered their relationship with a state-based scheme are recognised by several federal government agencies for issues like taxation and benefits, but not in areas of family law. De facto couples must meet a set of criteria, including living together for two years.

Rights activist Rodney Croome, who consulted on the Tasmanian civil partnership scheme, said the registers served as an alternative access to rights when marriage is either not desired or not available.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights convenor Emily Gray said a Commonwealth relationship register would be more desirable.

State-based relationship registers not only fail to provide any sort of practical or symbolic equality for gays and lesbians, but they promulgate the treatment of our community as separate and unequal, she said.

Some politicians have said we should be grateful for the introduction of registers as a form of relationship recognition. What they fail to realise is there isn’t much gratitude generated by a two-bit, second-rate system that provides neither the symbolism nor the practical equality of marriage.

Read more on relationship recognition: Separate and unequal

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