Gay activists celebrate union laws

“Many Queenslanders will wake up this morning knowing that their human relationships, their loving and committed relationships, are now regarded as equally valid before the law,” he told ABC Radio.

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“The fact many Queenslanders now feel dealt into the community, part of the community, in a way they haven’t before is the absolute goal of being able to be a member of parliament.

“I thank my colleagues for their support and for the privilege of being able to bring this change to Queensland.”

The vote, which passed 47 to 40, comes a few days before the issue of gay marriage is considered at the Labor party’s national conference.

Queensland Labor MPs were given a conscience vote on the issue, with four opposing it.

The 31 opposition Liberal National Party MPs voted as a block against the Civil Partnerships Bill, along with five of the six independent or minor party MPs present.

Gay and lesbian rights activists said it was a momentous milestone for Queensland.

Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians national spokeswoman Shelley Ardent said cheers erupted in the chamber when MPs passed the bill.

“There was absolute joy. This is a huge step forward for dignity and rights in same sex couples,” said the campaigner whose son came out in 1995.

“When James came out, homosexuality had only been decriminalised for five years. All he had was the right to be gay, now he pretty much has as many rights as the Queensland government can give him.”

She said LNP leader Campbell Newman had lost her vote over his party’s position on the bill, and expected other voters might make the same decision.

“Campbell Newman says he believes in same sex marriage but then directed the whole party to vote against it,” she told AAP.

“If he’s willing to use the double standards theory with the gay community, he’ll use it with others.”

Mr Fraser said procedural issues meant gay and lesbian couples eager to take advantage of the new laws would have to exercise some patience.

He said the first civil union ceremonies, to be conducted by civil notaries, could happen from early next year.

Mr Fraser said there was nothing in the laws to prevent a religious minister from registering as a civil notary and performing the ceremonies.

The LNP has said Mr Newman never directed MPs to vote against the bill and the decision was made in a unanimous party room vote.