The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has legalised civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples, making it the first territory in the country to do so.

The bill, sponsored by the ACT Greens party, was approved today by legislators after an amendment was inserted banning straight couples from having a civil partnership.

This means the ceremonies will not “mimic” marriage.

Gay couples living in the ACT have been allowed to register their partnerships since 2008 but until now, have not been allowed to hold a ceremony.

The new legislation could be struck down by the attorney general, who has rejected two similar efforts in the last few years, but opposition is said to have quietened down.

Research released earlier this year by the University of Queensland found that 51.4 of 2,061 gay and lesbian people surveyed said they would prefer to be married rather than in a civil partnership and 80 per cent thought gay marriage should be legal.

Twenty-seven per cent said they wanted another form of legal recognition, such as a federally recognised registry

Although domestic partnerships are available for gay couples in some Australian states, giving similar benefits to marriage, the country’s prime minister Kevin Rudd has been steadfast in his opposition to gay marriage.

In August, around 2,000 demonstrators marched on the Labor Party’s annual conference in Sydney, Australia, to protest about the continuing ban on gay marriage.