ALL signs point to a reintroduction of civil unions in Queensland with enough support from both sides of the parliament to guarantee legislative success, after the opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) granted a free vote on the issue.
Despite failing to achieve majority support when the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 went before the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for investigation last week, the legislation has the confirmed support of two LNP MPs.
[showads ad=MREC]Introduced by the former Bligh Labor government, civil unions were stripped back in 2012 by the Newman LNP government to “registered relationships” and omitted state-sanctioned ceremonies.
The current bill introduced by Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath in September seeks to restore the option for same-sex relationships to become “civil partnerships” along with ceremonies.
LGBTI rights advocates say that while same-sex relationships can be recognised in Queensland under the current scheme, its discriminatory elements and inequality can cause psychological effects on couples and their children.
“By restoring civil partnerships and allowing a state sanctioned ceremony, the government can acknowledge loving relationships in a truly meaningful way.” the Brisbane LGBTI Action Group said in a statement to the committee.
“This will improve the self-worth and validity of people choosing these unions, further helping to break down discrimination and thereby improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTI Queenslanders.”
Revealing the decision reached by the LNP party room earlier this week, Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said a free vote on same-sex relationship recognition was the “mark of a mature political party”.
“We think this is a mark of a mature political party that recognises that there are personal views,” he said.
“There are a myriad of views from those that support the current laws, those that support the proposed changes by the government, those who just think it’s a stunt and those that believe that we shouldn’t be touching this issue until after the plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
“I would prefer to see the Australian people making this decision by way of a plebiscite and then it’s resolved once and for all… but different people have different views and I respect that.”
Springborg has ruled out his support for civil unions, favouring the current “registered relationships” scheme and waiting for the outcome on marriage equality via a public vote.
“The Marriage Act remains the sole domain of the Commonwealth Government,” Springborg said in a statement to the Star Observer.
“After the next Federal Election, the government has indicated Australians will be able to have their say on same-sex marriage.
“At a state level, it is vital our laws reflect the views of Australians from this vote.”
When the civil unions legislation comes up for debate in Queensland Parliament next week, it will have the support of at least two conservative state MPs: LNP members for Noosa and Clayfield Glen Elmes and Tim Nicholls.
Taking to social media, Elmes – who has had a complicated history with the issue – declared he would support the reintroduction of civil unions.
“I am delighted that the LNP party room has decided on a free vote for it’s (sic) members on the issue of civil unions.” Elmes said.
“During the time that civil unions have been available in Queensland, 1277 same sex civil unions have taken place while, during this same period, 6856 heterosexual unions were conducted.
“There is a sizeable number of people in Queensland who see a civil union as a way of committing to their partnership and I will be voting for the legislation.”
A former treasurer under the Newman government and opposition spokesperson for infrastructure and employment, Nicholls announced his support via Twitter:
I will support the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) Bill. Let's all celebrate & support strong committed relationships between adults.
— Tim Nicholls MP (@TimNichollsMP) November 23, 2015
Speaking to the Star Observer, a spokesperson for the member for Callide, former deputy premier Jeff Seeney, said he was approaching civil unions with an open mind and would vote after hearing both sides of the debate.
The Surfers Paradise state LNP MP and current deputy opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek has said he would make his “position clear at the conclusion of the debate”, a spokesperson said.
The Palaszczuk Labor government caucus has united in support behind the legislation, and along with LNP support and the votes of two key independents — current Speaker and Nicklin MP Peter Wellington and Cook MP Billy Gordon — the bill is guaranteed success.
Debate on the reintroduction of civil unions will resume in parliament next week.[showads ad=FOOT]