Tasmania may have one of the most progressive civil union systems in the world, but for same-sex couples that have gone through the process, it falls well short of marriage. For the third time in its history, the Tasmanian Greens have tabled a package of proposed legislation to allow same-sex marriage. It is unlikely to succeed, but it will add to the growing momentum for change, as ROSEMARY
VIRGINIA Cowie and Phillippa Denne's relationship was made official with the stroke of a justice of the peace's pen on a wheelie bin.
Their dog Chino served as a witness.
The JP, who had no idea what he was signing, was bemused when the Coles Bay couple insisted he accept a bottle of champagne.
But the piece of paper he'd just signed was a deed of relationship, Tasmania's version of a civil union, which entitles couples to rights almost exactly the same as a husband and wife.
"To this day he doesn't know what he signed. He doesn't ask what it is because it's none of his business," Ms Cowie said.
"He was out the front gardening. He said we'll do it now, we'll just go over here and we can lean on the bin."
Ms Cowie said it was no fault of the JP.
"The system meant the experience we had was so poor. It made it completely functional, it was degrading.
"We'd lived for a long time not feeling as though our relationship was accepted as a fully fledged relationship and this just completely emphasised that more so than ever."
After the 28-day "cooling off period" the pair were officially entered on the register kept by Tasmania's Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
When they inquired about obtaining some recognition of the milestone in their relationship such as a certificate, the best they could get was a copy of their entry on to the register.
While married couples become husband and wife, Ms Cowie and Ms Denne could only refer to each other as the "person with whom you have registered a significant relationship".
"Clearly this is ridiculous and another aspect of the demeaning nature of the set up."
Despite the underwhelming process, Ms Cowie said the step made a significant difference to their lives. Ms Cowie went from being "Phillippa's friend" to being added to the family tree.
"By having the legal status attached to our relationship it did make it much easier for us. I could tell the in-laws I was legally a member of the family."
From being the last state to overturn legislation outlawing homosexuality, Tasmania has sprinted to the front of the pack.
Tasmania's Relationships Act 2003 is praised as one of the most progressive in the world.
Since Ms Cowie and Ms Denne signed up, couples can now hold a ceremony on the day and obtain a certificate.
Still there remains one major obstacle to equality in the eyes of the gay and lesbian community - marriage.
Pressure is again on politicians to legalise same-sex marriage at both state and federal levels.
The Tasmanian Greens will try for the third time to get state- based legislation passed, but it is unlikely to succeed.
Ms Cowie and her partner would get married if they could.
While she welcomes the Tasmanian Greens' efforts, she worries state-based legislation would not be accepted interstate.
"It's high time it was recognised federally. It would give us an opportunity to properly celebrate."