Australia’s First Civil Unions
December 31, 2003
By Peter Hacker, 365Gay.com Newscenter, Sydney, Australia
Sydney—The last state in
Australia to decriminalize homosexuality has become the first to allow
same-sex couples to officially register their relationships.
The Tasmanian registration scheme became official as
Australian’s welcomed in the New Year. It will allow same-sex couples to
gain full access to the medical, pension, care-giver and parental entitlements
of heterosexual couples.
When the state Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
reopens for business on Friday, the first couple to sign their commitment form
will be Michael Carnes and Bob Lavis.
“What these changes do is send absolute alarm bells to
all those who have been discriminatory in the past that those days are well
and truly gone,” said Carnes, a gourmet chef, who was forced to leave a job
12 years ago because of his sexuality.
Carnes, 42, and Dr Lavis, 50, have been partners for 17
“We are lucky in that we have always had incredibly
supportive families and we are now in a pretty comfortable position, but there
are so many young people out there who still face discrimination. Our getting
registered is more about the symbolism of being able to take this step; that
the discrimination must stop,” Carnes said.
The sweeping reforms passed earlier this year by the
state’s Labor Government stand in sharp contrast to Tasmania’s reputation
as a place of little tolerance towards same-sex couples, with homosexuality
deemed a criminal offence until just five years ago.
The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, which led the
protracted campaign that achieved gay law reform in 1997, said registration
was the next best thing to marriage.
“In the absence of gay marriage, registration is the
clearest way for society and government to show they acknowledge and approve
of same-sex relationships,” group spokesman Rodney Croome said today in a
“This is an important step forward for relationships
which have long endured stigma and discrimination.
Croome said that it is time the federal government
followed Tasmania’s lead and enacted a national law recognizing same-sex
“Ultimately I’d like to see the Commonwealth also
have a national registration scheme for all significant personal
relationships, that’s the path down which law reform in Australia is moving
and Tasmania is the pioneer,” he said.
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