Two men became the 100th couple to register as civil partners at the British Consulate-General in Sydney last week, prompting calls by gay rights groups for full relationship recognition in Australia.
The British civil partnerships scheme has granted the Sydney-based couple, Australian Joe Harcksen-Scott and Briton Paul Hesford, the same rights as married partners in the UK.
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s Emily Gray commended the British Government for its commitment to recognising the significance of loving relationships between same-sex couples in the form of civil unions, referring to the partnership scheme as “a great first step”.
But the availability of civil unions to same-sex couples only, Gray said, stops short of granting full equality to gays and lesbians.
“Any future civil union scheme introduced in Australia should not be a special scheme for same-sex couples,” she said.
“Rather it should cover same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, like the New Zealand civil partnerships scheme.”
For Harcksen-Scott and Hesford, their civil partnership was essentially “marriage”.
“We have seen our friends getting married and it was important to us that our union had the same weight,” he said.
“I wanted it to have legal significance rather than just be a commitment ceremony.”
Harcksen-Scott and Hesford are now legally equal to their heterosexual peers in areas of taxation, inheritance, nationality and employment benefits. Unlike with marriage, however, the couple was forbidden from having a religious service take place during the registration.
Since the British Civil Partnership Act came into operation on 5 December 2005, 108 male and 52 female partners have registered in Australia.
Prior to December 2006, 18,059 civil partnerships had registered in the UK with London boasting the highest number of registrations. Male partnerships were approximately three times higher than female partnerships and the men also tended to be older than the women.
The British Consul-General Tim Holmes said the British Government was of the view that an important change in the status of same-sex couples was needed, but acknowledged that “it isn’t marriage, and it doesn’t have exactly the same status”.

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