The Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) has today welcomed the much anticipated introduction of the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth laws – General Law Reform) Bill 2008 (Cth) into the House of Representatives. The bill, which ensures same-sex couples and their children will enjoy equal rights and entitlements alongside heterosexual couples, amends around 70 federal laws which currently discriminate against lesbians and gay men, and their families.
"These reforms will deliver a new modern age of equality for lesbians and gay men, and their children, in Australia. Our relationships and our families will finally be recognised in almost every piece of legislation across the nation", said Emily Gray, GLRL Co-Convenor.
The Bill gives same-sex couples and their children new entitlements and benefits in federal laws relating to taxation, superannuation, Medicare and health entitlements, social security, veterans’ and defence benefits, migration and anti-discrimination.
"We welcome the bipartisan spirit shown for reforms in this area. Last year’s GetUp! poll showed more than 70% of Australians support same-sex de facto equality. With this legislation, parliament has finally caught up with community attitudes. We call on the Coalition to support these reforms and ensure their speedy passage through the parliament and into the law books of Australia," said Peter Johnson, GLRL Co-Convenor.
The laws adopt and go further beyond the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report, which found that 58 federal laws discriminate against same-sex couples and their children.
The GLRL’s 58 ‘08 campaign – demanding equality in 58 laws by the end of 2008 – has delivered over one thousand letters and personal stories to the Commonwealth Attorney-General calling for swift and comprehensive same-sex equality reform.
Along with equal rights and benefits, aspects of the reforms will also impose new responsibilities on same-sex couples in areas such as social security.
The GLRL has been working with the Government to ensure that the transition to equality will give people adequate time to adjust their finances.
The Government has already agreed to the GLRL’s recommendation for a phasing in of social security reforms. However, the GLRL continues to call for an extensive education campaign to ensure all same-sex couples and their children are adequately prepared for the changes.
"We call on the Government to fund a comprehensive public campaign to educate lesbians and gay men about their new rights and responsibilities under the law, and ensure all Commonwealth service providers do not discriminate against same-sex couples and their children", said Emily Gray.
The GLRL will also be using a grant awarded by the City of Sydney to educate lesbians and gay men about the new reforms.