Matching rights for gay couples
Phillip Coorey Chief Political ReporterApril 30, 2008
THE long battle by gay and lesbian partners for the same legal and financial rights as de facto heterosexual couples is about to end, with the Rudd Government planning to remove inequalities in 100 areas of the law.
The federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, will announce today that the necessary legislation will be introduced when Parliament resumes next month for the winter sittings.
The measures do not amount to gay marriage; they afford gay couples the same treatment as heterosexual de facto couples in areas such as tax, superannuation sharing and social security.
The issue came to a head last year when the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found discrimination existed in 58 areas of financial and work-related laws.
The High Court judge Michael Kirby highlighted the inequity by publicly complaining that his partner of 38 years, Johan van Vloten, would have no access to Justice Kirby's pension if the judge died before him.
Under current law, if a retired judge in a heterosexual relationship dies before his or her partner, the partner is entitled to 62.5per cent of the judge's pension. But Mr van Vloten would not receive anything because he is not female.
Upon Labor winning government, Mr McClelland instituted his own review of Commonwealth laws which found inequities in 100 areas, many more than uncovered by the commission's report.
Mr McClelland said all would be redressed.
As well as tax, superannuation and social security, other areas to be reformed include health, aged care, veterans' entitlements, workers' compensation, employment and entitlements.
"In keeping with the election commitment, the changes do not alter the marriage laws," Mr McClelland said.
"They will make a practical difference to the everyday lives of a group of our fellow Australians who have suffered discriminations under Commonwealth laws for far too long."
All the changes would be operational by the middle of next year; most will begin as soon as legislation is passed. The Australian Democrats have long supported the reforms and there will be no problem with the laws passing the Senate before July 1.
Mr McClelland said children of gay couples would not be disadvantaged by the changes.