d) Family, relationships and marriage
Case studies of the benefits of inter-jurisdictional recognition of personal unions
The following case studies were taken from briefing materials for Tasmanian MPs published in August 2010.
1. Examples of the practical benefits of UK recognition of Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship
a) Mary-ann (surname withheld), Launceston
Our Deed of Relationship made it possible for Jen to have me recognised by her UK work pension as her partner when the UK Government finally decided to recognise same-sex relationships in 2005. It was very easy. All we needed to do was send a certified copy of our Tasmanian Deed.
b) David Samson, Huon Valley (taken from evidence given to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry into same-sex entitlements in Hobart in October 2006 )
I’m 59 and looking at retiring in the next year or so. I’m trying to set up provision to protect Kevin should I die before he does. I expect to be able to access my British local government superannuation pension next year. The British Government will recognise our relationship if we take out a civil partnership under the Tasmanian legislation.
When I wrote (our HREOC) submission I was that annoyed it seemed Kevin and I would have to go all the way to the UK or go to the UK Embassy and take out a civil partnership agreement under British legislation rather than enter into a recognised relationship in Australia. That seemed an impost, particularly for Kevin who’s not a British citizen. Now we don’t actually have to do that. All we need to do is go across the road and register our partnership under Tasmanian law and the British Government will recognise that.
The British pension I’m looking forward to comes in the form of a partial lump sum payment and an annual pension. Once I access that pension, if I should die, heaven forbid one year after I retire, then Kevin will get one year’s worth of pension, but after that, without us having gone into a Tasmanian civil partnership, Kevin would have had to fight for (the rest). Whether he would have been successful I don’t know (but) certainly under British law we understand he will be successful if we have that Tasmanian civil partnership.
c) Jason (surname withheld), Lenah Valley
My partner was from England and moved to Tasmania to be with me. We had our relationship registered under the Tasmanian Relationships Act 2003. We were so relieved that our relationship recognition in Tasmania was recognised under UK Law. It meant that if my partners parents fell ill and needed care, or for whatever reason we needed to move to the UK, we had the peace of mind knowing that under immigration laws, that reciprocal recognition meant a much easier process of relocating. I am sure there must be reverse instances of those who move to the UK from Tasmania who would want that peace of mind. There is also something to be said for the simple principle of equality before the law. Heterosexual couples enjoy mutual recognition of their marriages or relationships across jurisdictions, so why shouldn't same sex couples? When I discovered the UK recognised the registration of our relationship, it was a significant feeling of validation of myself and my relationship. As a gay man, I felt recognised not marginalised.
2. Concern about failure of Tasmania to recognise formalised relationships from other places
d) Michael Drell, Huon Valley
I am writing in support of a decision to automatically recognise Civil Partnership status in Tasmania for couples who have been recognised in other locations. The situation would be similar to the reciprocal recognition provided to other certificates of union between opposite sexes.
My partner and I had a Civil Partnership ceremony and celebration at home in the UK before we came to Australia to live in 2006. Although our relationship was recognised for immigration purposes as committed, the legal status and level of commitment is not recognised.
The most important issue for us is the principal of our relationship being respected and acknowledged here and our desire not to have to go through a new process and expensive fee to register our relationship here in Tasmania as this is not the case for married couples anywhere in the world.
There are issues of legal security and peace of mind that would benefit us, although we are lucky enough to have supportive and loving families on both sides. Unfortunately, many same-sex couples may not have support of families and in case of emergency or death, legal status and recognition can be crucial to recognition, entitlements and human rights for the surviving partner.
I urge members of Parliament from all parties to seriously consider the importance of this amendment not as a sexuality issue, but one of equality.
3. The overall benefits of Deeds of Relationship
e) Jonathan Hodgkin (taken from evidence given to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s inquiry into same-sex couple entitlements in Hobart in October 2006 )
My partner, Rik Thirlwell, and I chose to register our relationship very soon after the law enabled us to do so. We did this for many reasons, fundamentally security. Most of the rights afforded to married couples are extended to registered partnerships so we chose to use the legislation to gain security in legal and financial arrangements. We are homeowners. We also run a small business together. So our financial life is at it would be would with a married couple. With registration that is protected.
It’s a relatively simple process to register one’s relationship. We paid a little bit more so we actually have a registration certificate. We figured it would be useful in the situation where someone says “you can’t come into the hospital because you’re not related to this person”. I can wave the registration form and say “yes I can here’s my certificate”. In all such situations the process would be so much simpler with our relationship registered. We wouldn’t have to produce years of documentation. These laws could easily be applied nationally. The law changed in Tasmania with not a lot of fuss being made. There are many Tasmanian couples this legislation has benefited and there are many more it could benefit at a national level.
f) Peter Power, convenor of InDeed, The Association of Partners in Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship
My partner Ian, of 28 years and myself has registered our relationship with the Deed of Relationship. Ian and I moved from Melbourne in 2002 as sea changers. We felt the gay law reform in Tasmania was the most progressive in Australia and was a deciding factor in moving to Tasmania to start our new life. After moving here we became aware of the Deed of Relationship and decided to register our relationship. We registered because we felt it was great protection against discrimination and gave us equal rights in certain aspects of the State laws. We are able to have hospital visitation rights and property rights which are important in a situation of terminal illness.
The Deed of Relationship has benefits for all couples, whether it is a same sex, caring or de-facto relationship. We feel that as we have been recognised by the state government, that acceptance at the community level would follow. We live in a small community on the north-east coast of Tasmania and have been accepted as part of a very caring and open community. We would encourage all people in a relationship to register, to be able receive the benefits and security of the State Deed of Relationship.
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