Gay couples in Queensland can now officially register their relationships after a late-night intense state parliament sitting. The news comes as ALP delegates prepare to debate gay marriage this weekend at the national conference.

Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser put forward the bill, which allows same-sex couples to register their relationship with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

“This bill is fundamentally about the human rights of Queensland’s citizens, but it is much more than that, it is about the joyful business of love,” declared Premier Anna Bligh.

A total of 47 MPs voted yes, with 40 MPs voting against the ruling. Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote and four voted against it.

The legislation brings Queensland into line with laws already in existence in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Tasmania.

Gay marriage is one of several key issues dominating the ALP national conference held this weekend and it all comes down to numbers, writes Steven Scott in The Courier-Mail:

“When the 400 delegates to the Labor Party’s national conference converge on Sydney’s Darling Harbour tomorrow, there will be a series of numbers on their minds.

What happens at the conference, which is the ALP’s peak policy-setting forum, really comes down to deals between the factions about how to deploy the votes they control.”

The Left will oppose a conscience vote and push for a change in the party platform, and they’ve got quite a few members from the Right onside.

Two prominent gay Labor politicians — Penny Wong from the Left and Andrew Barr from the Right — will move the motion for Labor to change the Marriage Act to allow gay marriage at this weekend’s hyped ALP conference.

As Barr, deputy chief minister of the ACT, wrote in Crikey yesterday:

“The ALP national platform tells the Australian people what our values are. At the moment our platform says to Australians that we don’t truly believe in equal rights.”

A platform change will be embarrassing for the prime minister, who argues that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, writes Michelle Grattan at The Age:

“Ms Gillard is separately trying to shore up tight numbers to give MPs a conscience vote on any gay marriage private member’s bill. Losing the conscience vote would be a disaster for Ms Gillard, who has put her authority on the line over it.

Her supporters admit there is almost certain to be a change to Labor’s platform on the issue — the question is how far it goes.”

It’s panic stations for the PM, say Milanda Rout and Dennis Shanahan in The Australian:

“Ms Gillard’s office was last night involved in last-minute negotiations with key members of the Left and the Right to try to “cut a deal” and reduce embarrassment for the Prime Minister on the issue. These could include softening the wording of the amendment or an agreement not to oppose her conscience vote.”

Let’s face it, for most opponents of gay marriage, it comes down to the fact that they find gay sex disgusting and therefore gay relationships less worthy, argues professorial fellow Raimond Gaita in The Age:

“… the belief that gay sex, of its very nature, cannot have the depth that would enable it to rise to the marriage vow, implies that nothing the state can do can make a marriage out of a gay relationship.”

Arguing that gay marriage shouldn’t be a political priority just insults those it affects, declares Tom Dick in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Yet some think it ought not to be a priority, as if doing the right thing by fellow citizens should wait until the mythical day on which the rest of the public agenda is exhausted, when schools and hospitals want for nothing, when plagues and pestilence have been banished and when eternal peace has descended upon all the world. Until there is nothing else to do. Only then can the gays have their day.”

Labor is losing its primary support base by not being vocal enough on progressive issues, argues Tom Quinn in The National Times:

“The same hollow approach to policy development and presentation is seen time and time again across a range of issues, from the resistance to gay marriage to arguments for a carbon price and defending the initial mining super profits tax. Labor is consistently missing the opportunity to build community support for a more progressive Australia, primarily because it no longer understands its former base.”