Tasmania joined the Australian Capital Territory this month in allowing same-sex couples to legally register their relationship during a ceremony.

The administrative change was announced in September, when the Tasmanian Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages confirmed it would make a  procedural change allowing same-sex couples — along with opposite-sex couples —  to legally enter into a Deed of Relationship by signing a relationship certificate during a ceremony.

Couples who don’t want a ceremony can simply lodge paperwork with the registry office.

Tasmanian Attorney-General Lara Giddings said the change was a “significant improvement” on the previous process.

“The latest administrative change is another important step forward for Tasmanian couples, and will provide the process with even greater dignity and significance,” Giddings said.

The Tasmanian scheme was due to be rolled out on November 1, but was delayed to November 17.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome told Sydney Star Observer he welcomed the change which will allow couples to hold legal ceremonies from December.

“The decision is now in the hands of the couple to decide what day the Government records their relationship, linked to a ceremony they can enjoy with loved ones,” Croome said.

The Tasmanian registry office will provide new decorative certificates specifically for ceremonies and the registry will backdate the official date to the ceremony day. Previously, couples had to go into the registry office or send in the paperwork to be registered.

The Tasmanian scheme is an administrative change rather than a legislative change as it is in the ACT.

Pressure is now on the Rudd Government over how it will react to the ACT’s scheme to allow legal same-sex ceremonies after controversy and pressure from the Catholic Church to overturn the law. The Government is yet to indicate whether it will intervene.

Croome said the reason the same controversy had not followed in Tasmania was because the state had already gone through lengthy debate when the Relationships Act passed in 2003.

“We’ve had our disagreements about these issues and they’ve been resolved,” he said.

Croome said there was some concern an administrative change could be reversed if an incumbent government decided to abolish the provision, however, no such plan had been raised.

“We would benefit from it being legally entrenched,” he said.

“Having legislation sends a strong message from the Government, and of course is harder to change… it’s something we’d consider in the future.”

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