Marriage equality rights in Australia could lead to legal recognition of incest and polygamy, critics have said.

Yesterday, a Senate inquiry recommended that gay marriage should not be allowed in the country. This came after the Australian federal government decided not to quash new civil partnership union in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Despite indications it would veto the new civil union ceremonies, the government said they would stay in place with some small amendments.

But religious figures suggested it could pave the way for legal recognition of incestuous and polygamous marriages.

According to The Age, Family First senator Steve Fielding told the Senate inquiry on gay marriage: “A bloke cannot marry his brother; it is not right. A woman cannot marry their sister; it is not right. A bloke cannot marry a bloke because it is not right, and a female cannot marry a female because it is not right. I don’t support this.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby said that the new civil union ceremonies “devalue” marriage and will lead to legal marital rights for polygamists.

Gay rights advocates have cautiously welcomed the concession, but say they are concerned that the proposed amendments will not be legally binding and that the ACT’s gay community has not been consulted.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesperson, Corey Irlam, said this week: “It is step forward that Prime Minister [Kevin] Rudd has backed off from a veto, but the system the ACT government has now accepted is still essentially a paper process without ‘legally-binding’ ceremonies.”

Irlam reaffirmed gay groups’ commitment to gay marriage.

“Regardless of whether a civil partnership ceremony is legislative or binding, full legal equality for same-sex couples will only come when marriage equality is achieved.” he said.