The Federal Government has agreed to allow gay couples in the ACT to hold legally binding civil partnership ceremonies.
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a Greens bill earlier this month allowing same-sex couples to recognise their relationships with a legally binding ceremony.
The Commonwealth had indicated it was uncomfortable with the new legislation and asked the ACT to amend it. It blocked a similar bill last year when the Territory introduced its Civil Partnerships Act.
But the two governments have now reached a compromise that will allow gay couples to continue holding ceremonies in front of a civil partnership notary.
However they will also have to notify the registrar-general of their intention to hold a ceremony.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says it is a big win for equality in the Territory and a step forward for gay rights in general.
“This locks in the role of ceremonies for same-sex couples,” he said.
“We have legal ceremonies and we have legal ceremony celebrants and that is a very important reform.
“This now opens the door for other states and territories to follow the ACT’s lead knowing the Commonwealth accepts ceremonies are now a legal part of the equation.”
But Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury is more cautious.
“I’ll be waiting to see the actual amendments. I haven’t seen the detail,” he said.
Mr Corbell says he will try and push the amended laws through the Legislative Assembly before the end of the year.
One Canberra gay couple has already taken advantage of the new laws.
Chris Rumble and Warren McGaw yesterday held Australia’s first legally binding civil partnership ceremony in the Old Parliament House rose gardens.