In this Alert, Partner Alison Ross, Associate Kathleen Coggins and Law Graduate Stacey Percival discuss the amendments passed by the Queensland Parliament to the Relationships Act 2011 (Qld) allowing couples, including same-sex couples, to hold an official civil ceremony prior to the registration of their relationship.

On 17 September 2015, the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill) was introduced to the Queensland Parliament.  The Bill includes provisions returning the Relationships Act 2011 (Qld) to its former name, the “Civil Partnerships Act” and amending the term “registered relationship” to “civil partnership”.

The Bill was passed on 3 December 2015. 

The effect of the amendments will be to restore earlier provisions of the former Civil Partnerships Act 2011 (Qld) which enable couples of any gender to celebrate their relationship by holding an official ceremony prior to registering their relationship.

Transitional provisions will provide that relationships which were registered prior to the commencement of the amendments will continue to be recognised as a civil partnership.  Further, any pending applications of registration will be taken to have been made pursuant to the new provisions. 

The registration of civil partnerships and the celebration of relationships through a civil ceremony provides legal recognition of a relationship for those choosing not to marry.  These provisions are, however, independent of the proposed plebiscite to determine whether the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth), a Federal law, should be amended to provide for same sex marriage. 

It is understood that once the amendments commence, the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages will provide a register of people who can perform the civil partnership ceremonies.