PUBLIC submissions into the Queensland Government’s inquiry into its proposed reintroduction of civil unions wrapped up earlier this week, with an majority in favour of the legislation.
Despite the issue of marriage equality not yet legislated at a federal level, some submissions said it was the responsibility of the state government to do what it could in the meantime to dignify same-sex relationships.
[showads ad=MREC]There has been some criticism of the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s move to restore civil unions as frivolous – following the former Newman Liberal National administration’s decision to strip them back to “registered relationships“ – given the current national debate on marriage equality.
Civil unions are a means by which anyone to have their relationship recognised regardless of how couples choose to approach their partnership, according to LGBTI rights advocate Alistair Lawrie, who offered his own submission to the inquiry.
“The reintroduction of ceremonies is important, not just because it offers state-sanctioned ceremonies for LGBTI couples who may be waiting for marriage equality to finally be introduced federally, but also because there are many couples, including cisgender heterosexual couples, that do not wish to marry,” Lawrie told the Star Observer.
“Having an additional relationship option is a positive in and of itself. As a movement and as a community we place disproportionate emphasis on marriage equality first, second and third.
“We should remember that there are other types of relationship recognition – including civil partnerships – and also other changes to family laws, such as adoption equality, that should be pursued as well.”
Brisbane Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex Queer Action Group (BLAG) convenor Phil Browne agreed, stating in his submission that offering an alternative to marriage had a role to play within modern day Australia.
“This bill applies to all Queensland couples equally, whether they love someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex,” Browne said.
“It’s fair and just that people who choose civil unions, should also be allowed a state-sanctioned ceremony if they wish.
“Unlike our heterosexual friends and relatives, same sex couples do not have the luxury of a choice of different relationship recognition modes.”
Other submissions detailed the pain and hurt caused by the former LNP government following the winding back of civil unions in 2012.
“Words do not begin to describe the pain and deep level of hurt we experienced when Campbell Newman striped our civil partnership from us in such a way that our civil partnership became void and our ceremony was no longer able to take place,” Simon Tinkler wrote.
“Our friends and family can vouch for the fact that we felt so alienated and rejected by the decision of the government and the swift and heartless way it was brought into being. We were going to make plans to leave this state or even to leave the country altogether.
“It must be put on record for the history books that the Queensland LNP government saw the only case I am aware of in Australian history where a human right was deliberately and callously reversed.”
Browne expressed concern that the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 does not legislate for formal recognition of same-sex marriages performed overseas, similar to what now exists in NSW, Tasmania and the ACT.
“Lawyers from the… LGBTI Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre advise that the regulations in this bill do not allow for couples with overseas same-sex marriages or civil unions, to be automatically recognised as civil unions under Queensland law,” he said.
“Apparently this automatic recognition was provided under the previous Queensland act, but appears to be omitted from this bill.
“For same-sex couples that have already entered into an overseas legal marriage or civil partnership, expecting them to have to register their relationship again, would be degrading and dismissive of the fact they are already in a valid relationship.”
During the January election campaign, the then-Labor Opposition made several commitments to the LGBTI community that included – alongside reintroducing civil unions – restoring funding to the Queensland AIDS Council, reviewing the state’s age of consent discrepancy and granting same-sex altruistic surrogacy rights.
Lawrie congratulated the state government’s move on relationship recognition but urged it to honour its other commitments and look into other areas of LGBTI law reform.
“This bill is a welcome move, but there are plenty of other issues which also need to be addressed by the Palaszczuk Labor Government, including equalising the age of consent for anal intercourse, expungement of historical convictions for gay sex, and abolition of the gay panic defence,” he said.
The government is currently accepting public submissions into extending adoption rights to same-sex couples and work is underway on expunging historical gay sex convictions, a process that was started by the former LNP government.
A report of the civil unions inquiry will be delivered to Queensland Parliament next month.[showads ad=FOOT]