NICOLA MCNAMEE & CHELSIE STONE
Even though only 19 of an inner-Perth city’s 113 registered relationships are same sex couples, the mayor of the inner-Perth City of Vincent says the register has been a success since it was established in 2012 to allow gay and straight couples to formally recognise their relationship.
Since the City of Vincent established its relationship declaration register in December, 2012, 113 same sex and straight couples have done so.
Late today, a council spokeswoman advised that only 19 of the 113 relationships declared on the register, or 17 per cent, were same sex couples.
With the Federal Government set to vote tomorrow on whether same sex marriage should be legalised across Australia, Vincent Mayor John Carey said his city’s register had been well received from both same sex and heterosexual couples.
“Of late there’s been more heterosexual couples, but that doesn’t worry me,” Mr Carey said.
“I mean, as long as we’re providing a useful service.
“This is to provide a service that is useful to our community that recognises there is a need, because we do not have marriage equality for all.”
Mr Carey said the register symbolised the aspirations the Vincent community had to see marriage equality.
“It’s symbolic in the sense that we have a community with a gay community in it, and we wanted to provide something for them,” he said.
“But also to represent their aspirations, to represent a desire that all Australians, regardless of sexual orientation have the opportunity to commit in a loving relationship via the institution of marriage.”
Mr Carey said people often registered their relationship if they were in a de facto relationship.
“I think it’s done for a matter of reasons, though I think that if a couple is, say, moving overseas and they’re in a de facto relationship and they’re wanting to demonstrate that they’re in a relationship, then clearly it’s a useful pinpoint,” he said.
“I have had a situation of a same sex couple that was going to Norway and it was useful to demonstrate that the same sex couple was in a de facto relationship because obviously they don’t have a marriage certificate to demonstrate to the government.”
According to a poll by research group Crosby Textor, 72 per cent of Australians support the legal recognition of same sex marriage.
This puts Australia ahead of Ireland, where 62 per cent of people recently voted for same sex marriage to be recognised under the law.
Reverend Matthew Hodgson, a newly ordained deacon for the Floreat parish of the Catholic Church, said he supported the register as a means of declaring a couple’s partnership, but that was all.
“We would be, I guess, wary of perhaps this being a step towards legal recognition of marriage,” he said.
“We know that in Ireland, for example, same sex marriage is recognised under law, so we would hope that their traditional understanding of marriage would be preserved.
“Therefore, we’re happy with the register, but we would have a difficulty if that would go beyond a register in becoming legally recognised.”
Reverend Hodgson said he would not be concerned if other councils followed the City of Vincent.
“The register is still a private declaration of one’s relationship with other people, but then it’s only when it moves into the area of law and the area of the common good of society when it becomes problematic,” he said.
“This is because the church proposes that it’s best for particularly children to have a mother and a father, and so that’s where the church would have an issue.”
Khazia Wong, of the southern Perth suburb of Wilson, has been in a same sex relationship for more than five years.
Ms Wong said she would be open to using the register if it meant it was a step toward the legalisation of gay marriage, but was not aware of its existence.
She said she disagreed with Reverend Hodgson that it would be problematic for children to grow up with same sex parents.
“We could provide a really great environment for children, so I’ve had to remind myself that’s what it’s about, and not what other people think,” she said.
“Children are entitled to a safe and happy upbringing, and I do believe we’d be able to provide that for them.”