The ACT Legislative Assembly has passed a Greens bill allowing same-sex couples to recognise their relationships with a legal ceremony.
The ACT Government tried to legalise ceremonies as part of its 2008 Civil Partnerships Act but the Federal Government intervened saying the arrangement was too similar to marriage.
Education Minister Andrew Barr – who is in a gay relationship – wept as he spoke in support of the bill.
“Love, trust and intimacy and commitment are found at the heart of all good relationships,” he said.
“I’m proud that this parliament will send that signal that my relationship with Anthony is equal to any other.”
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury says it is the right thing to do.
“We are removing the current unfair and confusing situation,” he said.
But Shadow Attorney-General Vicki Dunne says the legislation will be blocked by the Commonwealth.
“It is almost certain the Commonwealth will intervene,” she said.
“It still sounds like a marriage and it still feels like a marriage and therefore it probably is a marriage.”
The Federal Government has not indicated at this stage whether it will overturn the bill but says its position on marriage has not changed.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says the Federal Government should respect the decision.
He says he has advice from two leading constitutional lawyers that the bill does not offend the Marriage Act.
“Unless they are able to come up with an argument that says why this impinges on the constitutional powers available to them – and they haven’t been able to do that to date – I simply have to conclude that this is a form of discrimination, it’s a form of bigotry,” he said.
Mr Corbell says the Legislative Assembly will not drop the issue if it is overruled.
“This is an issue that is not going to go away,” he said.
The bill will become law in about two weeks.
After that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has six months if he wants to use his executive powers to disallow it.
Greens Senator Bob Brown says he would be surprised if the Federal Government knocked back the legislation.
“We’ve got to get rid of discrimination on the basis of sexuality in this country,” he said.
“The great majority of people in the opinion polls – including most people in the ACT – want to see the end of that discrimination.
“I’d be amazed if Kevin Rudd and his ministers try to override the decision of the ACT Assembly.”