The proposal by Warren Entsch and Joel Fitzgibbon to pre-empt the marriage equality debate with a national civil union scheme has nothing to do with benefitting the gay community and everything to do with politics.
In terms of the aspiration of same-sex couples for equality, the plan makes no sense at all.
It's unnecessary because over 80% of Australians already have access to civil unions at a state and territory level.
If same-sex couples believed these provided equality they would flock to them in droves, but the fact is only a tiny proportion of same-sex partners have signed up.
Of those same-sex partners who have "civilly unionised" in Australia, 78% say they would prefer to be married according to a national University of Queensland study.
At the same time, the numbers of same-sex couples entering state and territory civil unions seems to be in decline.
It's true that the numbers of heterosexual couples signing on to state and territory civil union schemes is increasing, but this is because such schemes are at best an alternative for those who don't want to marry marriage, not a substitute for those who can't.
The failure of our civil unions to be a substitute for full equality is reflected around the world, where countries are either moving on from such schemes (Sweden, Norway, the UK) or bypassing them altogether and adopting marriage equality instead (Spain, Argentina, Portugal).
I've read the argument from Bob Carr and others that the UK shows Australia has to go through a civil union phrase before it moves on to marriage equality.
My response is that the UK is moving to marriage equality not because it has changed but because the world has changed.
The reason civil unions are less and less popular among same-sex partners is because they failed to solve the problems these couples face.
Overseas studies show they do not provide same-sex couples with same level of acknowledgement as married couples, and sometimes not even full relationship entitlements.
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