Lawmakers in the Australian state of Queensland have voted overwhelmingly in support of restoring the state’s civil unions scheme which not only creates a legal relationship but allows for an official ceremony like a marriage.
The state first legalized civil unions in 2008 under the Labor government of Premier Anna Bligh but they were dumped by Liberal National Premier Campbell Newman after he swept to power in 2012 despite his personal support for same-sex marriage to appease conservatives in his party.
Now Queensland MPs have voted 64 to 22 to restore the scheme with 21 of those votes crossing the floor to vote with the government’s MPs.
As a result any unmarried Queensland couple may now enter into a civil union but heterosexuals could already marry in Queensland so the vote is a bigger win for the LGBTI community.
Only one other jurisdiction in Australia allows civil unions for same-sex couples and that is the Australian Capital Territory – Australia’s equivalent of Washington DC.
The ACT tried to introduce same-sex marriage laws but lost a court battle with the then Australian Government which found that marriage in Australia can only be governed by national laws and so it retained its civil unions instead.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had promised the LGBTI community in Queensland that she would restore the scheme if she won office and she announced that her Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath would introduce a bill to that end in September.
‘It’s time to inject some maturity and some dignity into the marriage debate. It’s time to again allow heterosexual couples who might want to affirm their relationship but not take the step of actually getting married the right to do so,’ she told parliament.
‘It’s also time – once again – to allow same sex couples that same right … These ceremonies and the symbolism they represent are important, particularly to people in same-sex relationships.’
Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality said, ‘I welcome the Queensland government’s Civil Partnership law because it will provide same-sex couples with greater legal certainty.
‘But civil partnerships are not a substitute for equality in marriage for same-sex couples.’
‘Marriage is a universally recognized institution that guarantees equal respect and equal rights in a way civil partnerships cannot.
‘The Queensland government’s initiative reflects the desire of a majority of Australians to provide dignity where it is denied in the Federal Marriage Act, and will increase pressure on the federal government to provide that dignity through marriage equality.’
Gay marriage is banned Australia, but a plebiscite on the issue is scheduled for after the next federal election.