Relationships Register a leap forward for diverse families

Adelaide researchers have welcomed the official start of a new Relationships Register for South Australia, which now gives all couples in the State an equal chance to have their relationships recognised under law.

Starting this week, the Relationships Register provides a new avenue for couples – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – to have their relationship legally recognised, without the need for changes to marriage laws.

The establishment of the Relationships Register was one of the key recommendations made by the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute, based at the University of Adelaide. The Institute conducted a comprehensive review of the State’s laws to remove discrimination on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

“The introduction of the Relationships Register is a major development in the history of South Australia,” says the Institute’s Director, Professor John Williams from the University of Adelaide.

“For the first time, non-heterosexual couples have access to a simple legal pathway for having their relationships recognised under South Australian law. This in turn has flow-on implications for accessing other legal rights and services previously denied to some non-heterosexual couples.

“From now on, the Register will also provide legal recognition for visitors to South Australia who have their relationships legally registered interstate or overseas.

“It is pleasing to see that so many of the recommendations of our report into discrimination on the basis of sex and gender have now been enacted into South Australian law, with tangible, positive outcomes for members of the community,” Professor Williams says.

The SA Law Reform Institute is an independent non-partisan body established under an agreement between the Attorney-General of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and the Law Society of South Australia.

The Institute formulated its recommendations relating to a Relationships Register following extensive community engagement, including with lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex South Australians.

Report author and PhD student at the University of Adelaide’s Law School Sarah Moulds says the introduction of a Relationships Register reflects the voices of many South Australians with direct experience of being excluded or ignored by the law, and comes at the end of a considered process of law reform to ensure that South Australian law is free from discrimination.

“For many LGBTIQ South Australians, the absence of legal recognition of their relationships was denying them access to the type of legal rights most South Australians take for granted, including the right to be recognised as legal parents of their children and be acknowledged as the legal partner of their loved one at the time of death,” Ms Moulds says.

“No longer will non-heterosexual couples have to jump extra evidentiary hurdles to show that they have spent their life together or intend to start a family – they can simply head down to the Registry office and follow a straightforward legal process, just like heterosexual couples can do if they choose to get married.

“Importantly, students with the University of Adelaide’s Law School – as part of our Law Reform class – also made significant contributions to our report, which in turn has helped to lead to this landmark development in our law’s history,” Ms Moulds says.

The Institute continues to work on recommendations for law reform that aim to benefit the community, with reports on family inheritance and the partial defence of provocation in homicide cases and related issues due over the coming months.

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