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Australia: Port Hedland is latest council to recognize gay couples

Australia: Port Hedland is latest council to recognize gay couples

Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett.

The mining town of Port Hedland has become the latest local government in Australia to formally recognize gay couples.

Councilors on Wednesday (26 August) night voted 6-2 to establish a relationship declaration register for all couples, irrespective of gender.

The register mirrors that of the City of Vincent, the only other municipality in the state of Western Australia to recognize same-sex unions.

‘Tonight was a significant step forward for equality,’ Mayor Kelly Howlett said in a statement.

‘I am proud of our progressive council which is leading the way and doing what it can do to recognize all relationships – same-sex and heterosexual.’

Gay marriage is banned in Australia under federal law and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repeatedly blocked reform.

Gay couples living in the state can now sign a declaration of their relationship, which will recorded in the register.

‘While it’s not equivalent to same sex marriage it is a formal recognition of the relationship,’ Howlett said.

She told ABC that it did not confer legal rights like marriage, but ‘may be used in legal proceedings that involve interpretation or application of legislative provisions… particularly around wills, medical treatment and burials.’

The City of Sydney, City of Melbourne and Yarra City Council also have relationship declaration programs.