Civil Unions get a reprieve in Queensland

Premier Campbell Newman says Queensland’s same-sex civil unions laws will not be completely repealed, but will be amended to bring the legislation into line with other states.

Under the proposed changes, same-sex couples would still be able to register their relationship with the government, but would no longer be able to have a state-sanctioned declaration ceremony.

They would be able to have a private ceremony instead if they wished.

”They lose nothing from this change,” Mr Newman said today of LGBT community members who had fought hard for the right to register their relationships.

Mr Newman said state-sanctioned ceremonies were what offended Christian groups opposed to civil unions, beause they appeared to mimic marriage.

Today’s decision showed ”good faith” to the Christian groups who lobbied on the issue, he said.

Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie said at today’s announcement of the 609 civil unions that had been registered in Queensland as of late May, just 21 had also held declaration ceremonies.

Mr Newman was today reluctant to restate his personal views in support of same-sex marriage.

”You know my views…Yes, I’ve said them before,” he said.

The change reflects comments made in March by former Queensland Law Society president Bruce Doyle, who told an LNP government might change the civil union legislation into a relationships register that did not allow the option of a ceremony.

That option would rebrand the legislation “with a new name, but without symbols that mimic marriage”, he said at the time.

Wendy Francis, the Queensland State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, today praised the amendments to the civil unions act, saying homosexuals already had all the rights they needed before the bill was passed.

‘‘The main thing the ACL wanted was to take out the mimicking parts of the acts so that was the ceremony and the civil celebrant so I’ll be glad that’s gone,’’ she told this afternoon.

Ms Francis said it was a ‘‘good day’’ for herself and the Australian Christian Lobby but she would wait to see the complete amendments before saying if they went far enough.

She said she was hoping the civil union legislation would be repealed but was happy the ‘‘marriage mimicking’’ parts were being repealed.

‘‘The gay community already did have all of the rights that they needed to not be discriminated against so I’m interested to see what [the government] have changed,’’ she said.

‘‘But certainly if they have taken out the celebrants and ceremonies then they have taken out what’s mimicking marriage so I’ll be happy.’’

Liberal National Party MPs voted against the civil union legislation when it was introduced to Parliament last year, arguing it mimicked marriage and the party was opposed to changing the definition of marriage.

In December, Mr Newman told the LNP would look at repealing the law if it was elected, but said it may not be possible to do so.

In the interview, Mr Newman suggested repealing the civil union legislation after people had already entered into civil unions would be an “unacceptable and intolerable situation” for those people.

“So in that scenario we wouldn’t be doing anything,” he said in the interview recorded days after Parliament passed the civil unions legislation.

During the formal election campaign, Mr Newman said the party was implacably opposed to civil unions and would look at repealing the law, but added he did not want to leave people in legal limbo.

The civil union legislation, which came into effect in February, allows same-sex and heterosexual couples to register their relationship with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and have a ceremony if they wish to do so.

Two e-petitions on the topic are currently active on the Queensland Parliament website.

One anti-civil-unions petition, “Defending marriage in Queensland”, has so far attracted 4954 signatures. Another petition calling on the government not to repeal the law, titled “Defending civil unions in Queensland”, has 4009 signatures.

Mr Newman has previously voiced his personal support for allowing same-sex marriage. He has said the matter should be dealt with at a federal level.

As of last month, 518 couples had formally registered their civil partnerships with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the majority of these being same-sex couples.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Richard Kidd and the dean of Brisbane’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Peter Catt, have both urged the Newman government to consider the psychological impact of repealing civil unions.

Brisbane news – June 12 2012