While criticising the Rudd Government for opposing the “ceremonial aspects” of the ACT’s civil partnership law, Carol Johnson in On Line Opinion (February 14, 2008) described the Tasmanian Relationships Act as a “watered-down form of so-called ‘civil union’”. This is one of so many myths about the Tasmanian Relationships Act it’s hard to know where to begin.
Perhaps the best place to start is with a hypothetical and a couple of questions.
Let’s assume that two people love each other and want to formalise their relationship. They are not doing so for ulterior motives (like financial advantage, or to gain residency/citizenship for one of the partners), and they are not stupidly entering into a formalised relationship on a whim, say with a stranger they just met yesterday.
In Australia, there are currently two existing legal mechanisms to formalise this relationship, with a third proposed but in legal and political limbo. The two existing legal mechanisms are marriage (restricted to heterosexuals) and the registry scheme that exists in Tasmania (not restricted to heterosexuals, nor indeed, to conjugal couples).
The third scheme, the one in limbo, is the ACT’s civil partnership scheme (which is not restricted to heterosexuals but is restricted to conjugal couples).
What is the difference between these three (supposedly different) legal mechanisms? What is marriage, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship? What does the Tasmanian registry achieve, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship? What does the ACT’s civil partnership law allow, if it’s not the granting of legal entitlements and protections through the registration of a pre-existing intimate relationship?
Of course these laws are different in their minutiae, but in intent and purpose they are ALL the same.
Let me outline some of the myths about the Tasmanian law and firmly dispel them.
Myth: The Tasmanian law is “watered down and second rate” because it does not include an official ceremony that creates the relationship.
Reality: No ceremony by itself ever legally “creates” a relationship, not even with respect to marriage. What “creates” the legal relationship is a statement of commitment by the parties, accompanied by a government-designated official and witnesses who also attest to that relationship. Marriage is a commitment which is witnessed by individuals and validated by a government-designated official (a minister of religion or celebrant).
A Tasmanian Deed of Relationship is, legally, the same thing: a statement of commitment by the partners, which is witnessed by individuals, and validated by a government-designated official (the Registrar).
The ACT civil partnership law is again the same thing: a statement of commitment which is witnessed by individuals and validated by a government-designated official (a celebrant).
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
17 posts so far.