CIVIL unions have returned to Queensland following debate in state parliament this afternoon that saw 64 MPs — including 21 from the Liberal-National Party who crossed the floor — vote in favour of the legislation.

After a three-year absence from when it was stripped back under the former Newman LNP government, the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 passed easily through Queensland Parliament 64 votes to 22.

[showads ad=MREC] Restoring recognition of civil partnerships was an election promise made by the Queensland Labor government during the state election campaign in January.

“This delivers on a vital election commitment to Queenslanders and restores the right of couples, regardless of their gender, to celebrate their relationship with a civil partnership ceremony,” Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said.

“When it comes to the most important relationship in our lives, language and rituals are important. The changes in terminology in this act restores the dignity and the respect that all of our loving relationships deserve, regardless of gender and sexuality.”

With the opposition being granted a free vote on the issue, 20 LNP MPs crossed the floor in defiance of their leader Lawrence Springborg to vote in favour of the bill.

Going into the debate today only three LNP MPs — including the former Attorney-General responsible for stripping civil unions back to “registered relationships” and banning state-sanctioned ceremonies in 2012, Jarrod Bleijie — had publicly declared their support for civil unions. Mansfield state LNP MP Ian Walker announced his “yes” vote during debate in the chamber before the vote.

After the dust had settled, half of the LNP MPs had sided with the Labor government along with independent Billy Gordon: a result that left Brisbane LGBTI advocate Phil Browne in tears.

Speaking to the Star Observer, Browne said today was the day dignity had been restored to Queensland’s LGBTI community.

“Queensland has returned to the 21st century,” he said.

“Today we had our dignity and respect restored by the government. It was absolutely disgraceful that civil rights were removed in a so-called progressive society by a so-called secular government.

“Justice has been done.”

Browne added that the amount of LNP support had completely taken him by surprise: “I was expecting at least five from ones that I was aware of but just… seeing all those MPs crossing the floor… it was just so emotional. It was truly astounding.”

Present when the original civil union legislation was passed in 2011, when it was stripped back in 2012 and today, PFLAG’s Brisbane-based national spokesperson Shelley Argent immediately called her Sydney-based son and told him he was once again equal in his home state.

“I just feel absolutely overwhelmed even though I was thinking that it would pass. We were relatively confident about that,” she told the Star Observer.

“I still feel quite overwhelmed that after four years of LNP ‘reign’ or whatever you like to call it, we now have our rights back.

“As a mother I can now feel proud that my son can come back to his home state and know that he is seen as equal. Where before when the LNP did what they did, I was ashamed to be a Queenslander and proud that he did not live here anymore.

“I think it says a lot also for the those in the LNP who finally saw sense and crossed the floor. They are now going to be on the right side of history.

“I was absolutely surprised that almost half the party crossed the floor. I thought maybe a couple would but I thought the rest would not just on principal but at least I think it shows that they realise what they did in 2012 was a bad move and hurtful move.”

Speaking during the second reading of the bill today, numerous Labor MPs rose to throw their support behind the bill, including most senior cabinet members and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“Some Queenslanders have been left behind… and for the third time I am happy to stand in this house and say love knows no boundaries,” she said.

The Premier’s comments were echoed by her deputy, Jackie Trad: “As someone from the Christian faith, I know how ceremonies bring people joy and love.”

D’Ath said: “I would like to make it clear to all Queensland couples, irrespective of gender, that this is your home and your state, and your relationships are valid and worthy of recognition and respect.

“We know there is more to acknowledging a relationship than assigning it a particular legal status or registration number.

“It is about making a formal commitment to our significant other in front of our loved ones, and celebrating the love and value we bring to each other’s lives.”

Following some amendments that will start once a number of administrative matters are ironed out, Queenslanders can expect to see civil unions shortly in 2016.

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