The amendment of the Civil Partnerships Act by the Newman Government has had a direct impact on the economic viability of the civil celebrant industry in Queensland.
By amending and renaming the Act as the Registered Relationships Act, it is no longer legal for celebrants to charge for and perform civil unions in Queensland. Instead, members of this industry can only offer same-sex couples the cheaper and non-legal alternative of a commitment ceremony, which can then be registered with the Department of Births’ Deaths and Marriages.
Lynette McCauley of Brisbane’s Cherish Ceremonies believes that the Queensland gay celebrant industry will be hard hit by these amendments. “We were very disappointed with this backwards step by the State Government. Under the previous Government, same sex couples could register their union giving them legal rights similar to marriage rights and they were also able to have a legal civil union ceremony. We applauded this decision as a step towards marriage equality for everyone.”
These amendments have been made despite the Federal Government revising the 2011 census to allow same-sex couples to designate their relationship as married for the first time in the 111-year history of the census, rather than only offering a de facto relationship category. Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australia has 1338 same-sex couples that have been legally married in ceremonies overseas in countries such as Canada and Spain, which demonstrates that there is a demand for a legal civil union industry in Australia.
Co-owner of Cherish Ceremonies Tamzin Lockhart believes that by legalising same-sex marriages, businesses other than the civil celebrant industry would also reap the benefits. “There are many different services and jobs which rely on weddings. Everyone from venues to car hire, florists, clothing hire, dressmakers, cake makers, photographers, caterers, celebrants and others. It would certainly create more jobs and be a huge boost to the Australian economy.”
Despite the setbacks placed by the Newman Government during their first months in power, Mrs McCauley is positive that gay marriage will one day become a legal reality in Queensland. “I believe and hope that marriage equality is inevitable…there is significant public support for this to become law, and we at Cherish Ceremonies believe that it will happen in the next few years.” The results of polls undertaken by Galaxy Research show that support for gay marriage within Australia has been steadily increasing, with approval ratings increasing from 38 per cent to 64 per cent between 2004 and 2012 as can be seen in the table below.
Feature Image Courtesy of Lynette McCauley
Table Statistics: Galaxy Research