The Federal Attorney-General’s announcement of a timeline for implementing financial and workplace equality for same-sex couples and their children is a huge victory for our community.
For too long lesbians, gay men and their children have suffered from discrimination in areas such as superannuation, taxation and health care. These reforms mean that same-sex couples and their children will now be treated equally with heterosexual couples under federal law.
We would like to thank you, the members of our community, and our heterosexual friends who have sent more than 900 letters to the Federal Attorney-General through our 58 ’08 campaign website. Your support has played an enormous part in the government’s reforms.
This is a cause for celebration for lesbians, gay men and their children all around Australia. Perhaps we can now start to feel like first-class citizens as well as first-class taxpayers in this country.
While this is one step short of formal relationship recognition through marriage or civil unions, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of these changes and what they mean for our community.
Take the case of a gay man in his 70s worried about being able to pass his superannuation on to his partner of 40 years in the event of his passing. From June, Federal law will recognise their long-standing relationship and allow the transfer of superannuation benefits to same-sex partners. This is the sort of financial security and peace of mind our community has been seeking.
The phasing in of these reforms until midway through next year will ensure that our community receives rights and entitlements before responsibilities. So, for example, we have at least 12 months before social security reforms go through. And while in some cases these reforms may see some payments lost for individuals, the overall benefits of this huge step towards equality far outweigh the negatives.
Over the last year, we have heard from lesbian mothers forced to pay double to access the Medicare Safety Net for their family, couples denied workplace entitlements such as carer’s leave and parents whose children are denied the privilege of having two people legally responsible for their care. For thousands of couples such as these and their children across the country. This sort of discrimination will end in 2008.
Let’s celebrate this victory for our community together and commend the Rudd Government for recognising the dignity and legitimacy of our relationships. It has been a long time coming.
Peter Johnson and Emily Gray are the co-convenors, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.