Couples sign on dotted line

Couples sign on dotted line

STRAIGHT couples are flocking to lodge their relationship on the first register set up in Australia to recognise gay and lesbian unions.

In the past two years, 80 heterosexual couples have lodged a deed of relationship in Tasmania compared with 27 same-sex couples.

Since the registry was set up seven years ago 257 couples have paid a fee to lodge their deed. Of those, 142 were same-sex.

The data shows that heterosexual couples are now close to overtaking same- sex couples on the registry, which was championed at its launch as the next best thing to marriage by gay rights activists.

The trend has surprised people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate, who could only speculate on the reasons why so many straight couples were signing up.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said he was pleased to see more heterosexual couples making use of the registry but is still after funding to promote it.

"The research that we have done showed there were a lot of heterosexual people who had no idea of the benefits of it, or even that it existed. We want to promote it not just to inform same-sex couples of the registry, but also opposite- sex unmarried couples," he said.

"Certainly, there are far more heterosexual couples who could benefit from this (registry) than same-sex couples."

Mr Croome said anecdotally some same-sex couples were holding off from registering as they waited to find out if the law would change to allow them to marry.

He said there were also reports of straight couples using the registry, rather than marrying, as a protest vote against the ban on gay marriage.

Tasmanian director of the Australian Christian Lobby Mark Brown said the low uptake of same-sex couples on the registry indicated little interest in same-sex marriage.

"Obviously there are few same-sex couples who are interested in getting married and the percentages that have been quoted in the media of 80 per cent just don't add up with what we're seeing on this relationships registry," he said.

"We want to protect marriage for what it is. It is designed for a certain group of people, which is positive discrimination. If it wasn't so then it wouldn't be marriage."

Peter Power and his partner of 34 years Ian Lawrence were among the first couples to register their same-sex relationship in Tasmania.

However, they still want to be able to marry and are hoping a change in law will come after next month's ALP's national conference debates the issue.

Tasmania was the first Australian jurisdiction to set up such a relationships registry with the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and New South Wales following suit.

A private member's bill was recently introduced into Queensland Parliament that would also allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to register relationships.

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