ACT marriage activists have called on the ACT gay and lesbian community to boycott the civil union scheme if provisions set down by the Rudd Government undermine the legal standing of civil celebrants during ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The ACT’s Stanhope Government has rejected claims it has been forced to water down laws as it introduces amendments to the ACT Parliament this week as part of a deal struck with the Commonwealth to allow its same-sex civil union laws to proceed.
Equal Love Canberra spokesman John Kloprogge said there are concerns civil ceremony notaries will be reduced to a “paper process” despite the ACT Government’s assurances the amendments won’t affect the original intention of the laws.

“Any intervention from the federal Government is unnecessary and mean-spirited,” Kloprogge said.

“Ceremonies should be front and centre in terms of giving legal effect to a civil union. If the deal compromises or undermines the legal effect of the ceremonies and disempowers the notaries, then we call on the gay and lesbian community to boycott civil unions.”

Although the amendments have not been publicly released, Kloprogge said changing the laws so couples have to notify the registrar-general in addition to their notary changes the focus to a registration process.

“I’d be happy if it’s the notary giving legal effect to the union through the process of a ceremony. That is what we want, but as far as we’ve seen, it’s the process of the registrar-general backdating that brings into effect the relationship and that does take away focus from the ceremony.”

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell told Southern Star the amendments would not change the role of the civil celebrant notary, and ceremonies will still have legal effect.

“Under the changes … couples will still give notice to the notary of their intention to have a ceremony. They will also give notice to the registrar-general of their intention to enter into a partnership,” Corbell said.

“They will still have to have the ceremony and they will still have to make the public declaration and have that witnessed by the notary, and the notary will then tell the registrar-general that that’s occurred.”

Corbell said in the event something happens between the date given to the registrar-general and the date of the ceremony, the ceremony date would be the day the relationship comes into effect.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the party was reluctant to accept the changes without further explanation from the Attorney-General.

“Our view is that if it’s not broken, you don’t need to fix it,” Rattenbury said. A vote on the amendments is expected today.

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