A marriage made in Sydney fails to seduce city's gay couples

By Tim Dick and Lisa Pryor
August 2, 2004


Queues of couples may be forming outside courthouses in the US to be married, but the City of Sydney has been far from inundated by same-sex couples wanting to add their names to the partnership register it inherited from South Sydney Council.

Just seven couples have signed up so far, but because the register does not bestow any legal rights, the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, hopes to make the pledge more attractive by altering it to include words used in de facto property legislation. This would help prove a de facto relationship in later years if things did not work out, she hopes.

One Newtown pair, Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne, will not be among the couples taking advantage of the register. They travelled to Canada in April to formalise their 15-year relationship by getting married.

"A marriage registry is a second-best, crumbs-on-the-floor option," Mr Carmack said. "Gay people are asking for marriage - we're not asking for separate but equal, we're asking for the same."

Randwick Council passed a motion in June to investigate a register, a motion opposed by seven ALP councillors. Michael Daley, a solicitor and a former deputy mayor to Dominic Sullivan, was so concerned about the prospect of a register that he put a motion before the council last week, imploring it to "proceed no further".

That fell on receptive Labor ears, but the rest of the council voted down his motion.

Bruce Notley-Smith, a Liberal, said all the council had done was ask for a report on what the register would achieve.

"The Labor Party at the outset said it was an indulgence ... but they will have the opportunity to either vote for it or against it," he said.

Robert McGrory, co-convener of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said registering names had no legal effect, and establishing registers was a decision for each council.

Mr Carmack and Mr Polkinghorne said love alone drove them to marry - in the presence of Mr Carmack's 89-year-old father and 83-year-old mother.

"They've known and loved Morrison since we first met," Mr Carmack said. "I said I want to know that my parents see their son married before they die, and that will be one of the most important, lasting memories in my life."