By Brody Levesque | BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA -- Conservative lawmakers in the parliament of the Australian state of Queensland, have reversed the gains of same-sex couples, by redefining civil partnerships downgrading them to the lessor class of ‘registered relationships.'
After a sometimes heated debate Thursday, interrupted numerous times with angry outcry from the spectators gallery until the Speaker ejected protestors, the conservative Liberal National Party majority which took control of the Parliament from the Labor Party earlier this year in March, voted to extensively alter the provisions of the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 which took effect in February.
The actions by lawmakers will also revoke same-sex couples' ability to surrogate children as well as remove the option of a state sanctioned official ceremony so that " [registered partnership licencing] bears less resemblance to marriage."
Liberal National Party Leader Campbell Newman, whose party now controls 78 of the 89 seats in the Parliament, said that Thursday's actions to amend Queensland's civil partnerships system actually showed that his party was “prepared to reach a sensible compromise that retains rights." Shortly before elections in March, Newman publicly maintained that the "party would “not be making any changes” to the state's surrogacy law. The Queensland Surrogacy Act, which was passed into law two years ago in 2010, allowed same-sex couples, unmarried domestic couples to have children, provided that the surrogates were not paid.
In a separate statement after the vote last night, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced that single people and gay couples will no longer be able to have children through a surrogate when the LNP repeals those sections of the Act.
Newman told the Brisbane Times that contrary to statements he made prior to the elections, "it had always been a party policy commitment," adding, “No one asked.”
The original act offered many of the same rights and obligations as marriage to same-sex couples, except adoption rights, and was unanimously opposed by the now-ruling Liberal National Party whose leadership maintained that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Members of the LNP wanted to ban same-sex couples from any form of registered relationship during the debate Thursday, but that motion was tabled with party leader Newman saying that such actions “would cause pain and suffering” and “a lot of trauma to many innocent people” who had already entered into civil partnerships.
Marriage Equality Rights Advocate Alex Greenwich said:
“Same-sex couples throughout Queensland will be deeply insulted by the fact that yet again their relationships have been downgraded and demeaned by their own government.”
Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Jim Wallace disputed Greenwich's statement saying that people were tired of a minority's agenda driving social policy in Australia putting the rights of adults ahead of the rights of children, truth and biology.
“What we saw in the Queensland Parliament last night was the response to a groundswell of concern for marriage and putting the rights of children first in public policy,” Mr Wallace said. “While most people are tolerant and supportive of removing discrimination from same-sex couples," he added, "the selfish agenda of some activists has been given too much prominence in public policy.
Wallace also noted that “Ordinary people are repulsed by the sort of behaviour witnessed in the Queensland Parliament’s public gallery last night where MPs were abused, demonised and called bigots because they supported marriage remaining between a man and a woman – a daily ordeal for those advocating for marriage in the public arena.
“Millions of Australians, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, do not support redefining marriage and they are distressed at being labelled bigots and haters because of their view,” he said.