The first civil ceremony marking the registration of a same sex relationship has taken place in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

It was the first commitment ceremony to be held in Canberra since the ACT Government passed laws to recognise same sex partnerships.

The Federal Government has only recently started to recognise state and territory civil unions for the purpose of federal entitlements.

Civil union schemes are only open to residents of the particular state or territory which provides them and are not recognised by other Australian states or territories.

However, some countries such as the United Kingdom do recognise Australian civil unions.

Australia’s federal government had been accused of “playing to the politics of the extreme right religious lobby” after it forced the ACT government to water down plans to legally recognise same-sex couples.

The federal Attorney General warned the ACT legislature that he would not accept “legislation that mimics marriage” and threatened to use his power to overturn any such legislation.

The ceremony was held at Lake Burley Griffin, an Australian beauty spot popular with gay travellers.

The couple, who have been together for 25 years, read out promises of commitment to each other and exchanged rings.

The ACT becomes the third of eight Australian states and territories to recognise same-sex partnerships.

In April the Australian government announced over 100 reforms that will give gay couples the same rights as straight couples.

Attorney General Robert McClelland told reporters in Canberra:

“The changes will provide for equality of treatment in a wide range of areas including superannuation, taxation, social security, workers compensation and pharmaceutical benefits,”

“These will make a practical difference to the lives of a group of fellow Australians who, for far too long, have suffered discrimination at a Commonwealth level.”

Earlier this month the California State Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples cannot be excluded from marriage.

The first same-sex union with government recognition was obtained in Denmark in 1989.