Gemma Mann and her partner are ecstatic they can now formalise their relationship with the passing of the Civil Partnerships Bill.
Gemma Mann and her partner are ecstatic they can now formalise their relationship with the passing of the Civil Partnerships Bill. Allan Reinikka

Civil unions could go national

IT'S starting to become an age-old debate and all sides of the fence need to stop hiding under tepees of cowardice, says a Queensland politician.

Queensland passed the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 on November 30, which allows same-sex civil unions for Queensland residents.

It was the first win for same-sex couples in Rockhampton and the rest of the State, with evidence now showing same-sex couples will have more equal rights coming their way.

When Federal Parliament resumes next month, it's tipped the Australian Labor Party will attempt to change the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples across the country to lawfully get married.

Evidence the Federal Government is ramping up to give more equal rights to this part of the Australian society came as the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 came into effect recently.

While not directly linked to the gay marriage debate, the new Act requires all new bills and disallowable legislative instruments to be accompanied by a "Statement of compatibility with human rights'' and statements will assess compatibility against the seven main United Nations human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.

At the time of Queensland changes, Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser, who introduced the Bill into Parliament, said the Bill struck a blow against the discrimination experienced by same sex couples in Queensland.

To allow same-sex couples to marry, legislation needs to be changed at federal level and following the Queensland legislative tick, the Australian Labor Party, at its national conference in December, changed its political stance on the issue in support of gay marriage.

Since then, Federal Member for Throsby (south of Wollongong) Stephen Jones pledged on a Melbourne gay radio station he would meet marriage equality advocates to formulate a strategy to ensure that the introduction of a bill in Federal Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage would be successful.

Mr Fraser, in an interview with the Morning Bulletin, in a nutshell, said just get the vote over and done with because people are not going to change their stance on this matter, but they can be stopped from hiding their positions by making them vote on the matter.

He said this debate had been around for a while.

"Anyone that thinks that the timing isn't right I think is avoiding the actual moral substance of the issue," Mr Fraser said.

He said saying there were more urgent priorities than seeking out equality, or that the timing was not quite right for doing something, made it appear those people aren't prepared to confront the issue head-on.

"In the Queensland context we saw all the opponents who would never have voted for it in a million years hide behind process and they constructed these little tepees of cowardice and hid underneath them and said 'if only this, it would be different'.

"The truth is, they need to be smoked out and the answer they would give is that would they vote for it in a million years and the answer is no and they should actually have the courage to say that rather than trying to hid behind process.

"I don't know if there are too many people that are struggling with weighing this up back and force."

"In the federal sense, the argument about timing misses the point. It's either right or it's wrong,'' Mr Fraser said.

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