Thursday, August 26, 2004

De facto marriages

Submissions on the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill are critcising the way it changes the rights of de facto couples, effectively "marrying" them without their consent. On the one hand, most of this is right and proper - the very purpose of the bill is to grant de factos legal equality with married couples. But on the other hand, some rights probably do require some sign of consent and commitment beyond simply shacking up. The existing Property (Relationships) Amendment Act 2001 resolves this with respect to property rights by imposing a three-year time limit, after which a couple is treated as effectively married for the purposes of disposing of property on a dissolution. Incorporating similar provisions into parts of the omnibus bill would be perfectly acceptable.

And on the third hand, these are exactly the sort of questions the select committee process is designed to resolve. The bill will almost certainly be amended in response to submissions, and the balance of rights will almost certainly shift. Hopefully those amendments will be reasonable, rather than simply an attempt to entrench privilege and deny rights to de factos out of spite.