Relationships Register Bill 2016: New Relationship Register Proposal Aims to Remove Same-Sex Discrimination

Tuesday 27 September 2016 @ 2.00 p.m. | Legal Research

On 22 September 2016, the State Government of South Australia introduced the Relationships Register Bill 2016 (No. 158) (the Bill) into the Legislative Assembly.  The Bill aims to make provision for the registration of certain relationships and make any consequential amendments necessary for this to happen, as well as creating an option for couples in any relationship to more easily demonstrate their status when dealing with various bodies, including government agencies and service providers, in order to have their relationship rightly respected and to access their rights and entitlements.

Background to the Bill

In January 2015, the Attorney-General gave the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) reference to inquire into and report on South Australian laws that discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and intersex status. Following their review, SALRI released a number of reports. On 2 June 2016, SALRI released a report, entitled 'Rainbow families: equal recognition of relationships and access to existing laws relating to parentage, assisted reproductive treatment and surrogacy'. The report encapsulated SALRI's review of equal recognition of relationships and parenting rights and surrogacy in South Australia and recommended a number of changes that are indeed well overdue.

On 30 June 2016, SALRI released a report, entitled 'Lawful discrimination: exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 to unlawful discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status'. There were a number of recommendations in that report included in this bill to expedite the removal of discrimination from current South Australian legislation including the identification of 140 pieces of legislation that discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and made recommendations to address this.

This Bill, in particular, came about after a specific incident involving a British same-sex couple honeymooning in Adelaide in January 2016. One partner was killed in a freak accident and due to current laws at the time, his partner was not able to be registered as next of kin - instead, the dead man was marked as "never married".

Amendments within the Bill

This bill, when passed, will create an option for couples in any relationship to more easily demonstrate their status when dealing with various bodies, including government agencies and service providers, in order to have their relationship rightly respected and to access their rights and entitlements. The bill will achieve this through the implementation of the recommendations set out in the SALRI equal recognition of relationships report as they relate to:

  • the establishment of a relationships register;
  • amendment of access and eligibility provisions;
  • the rules dealing with surrogacy and the recognition of legal parentage; and
  • the amendment of the Wills Act 1936 (SA).

The relationship register, once established, will also ensure that South Australia is in line with the Federal government's moves to remove discrimination of unmarried people, whether in heterosexual or non-heterosexual relationships. The Commonwealth has previously amended its Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth) to define a de facto partner in its legislation to include partners in registered relationships under a prescribed law of a state or territory.

Additionally, the Bill also provides for the potential recognition of interstate registered relationships. Clause 26 as proposed provides that regulations may declare that a class of relationships registered or recognised under a corresponding law of another state or territory or another country are 'registered relationships' for the purpose of this act. This will ensure that couples who register their relationship in another jurisdiction and then move to South Australia do not have to reregister their relationship in this state. This will also provide for the automatic recognition of recognised overseas non-heterosexual marriages under South Australian law.

Reaction to the Bill from the Public

Assistant Minister to the Premier, Katrine Hildyard, said the State Government was not going to wait for Federal Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage:

"Whilst we're waiting for marriage equality, whilst we're campaigning for it, steps taken to have things like relationships registers in place will mean that couples — same-sex couples and other couples — will be able to be afforded some rights."

Premier Jay Weatherill stated in his media release:

"This Bill provides a mechanism for LGBTIQ couples to demonstrate their shared commitment and demonstrates a respect for the many diverse relationships in our community and promotes a more inclusive society in South Australia."

The Bill awaits second reading debate in the Legislative Assembly.

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Relationships Register Bill 2016 (158 of 2016) [SA] and secondary materials as reproduced on TimeBase LawOne

Government of South Australia: Department for Communities and Social Inclusion Media Release

ABC News Article

Premier of South Australia Media Release

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