The Rudd Government introduced its first bill as part of the same-sex equality reforms yesterday.

The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws -“ Superannuation) Bill will ensure same-sex couples are no longer automatically denied the payment of death benefits from superannuation schemes.

Tax concession on death benefits will also be extended to include same-sex couples.

Both sides of politics will support the bill, crucial to passing the Coalition-majority Senate.

The Opposition supports the bill and the overall concept of removing discrimination, but each bill will be looked at as it’s introduced, a spokesman for Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis told Sydney Star Observer yesterday.

Eight Commonwealth-run schemes are included in the amendments, affecting judges, defence personnel, federal public servants, politicians, and the Governor-General.

The scheme will now refer to couple relationship and partner rather than marital relationship and husband or wife. The new definition of a partner describes a person [as] the partner of another person if the two persons have a relationship as a couple (whether the persons are the same sex or different sexes).

Children are recognised as a child of the couple relationship under the new definitions if born to either partner.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Government was following through on its election commitment to remove discrimination, with all reforms expected to be implemented by mid-2009.

The speedy introduction and passage of these long overdue reforms would ensure that from 1 July, same-sex couples and their children will be treated equally in the operation of Commonwealth superannuation schemes, McClelland said.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said the amendments did not require commercial superannuation schemes to also recognise same-sex partners.

The government is relying on commercial superannuation firms to make these decisions. This is not the removal of discrimination that the government promised the public, she said.

A survey of 15,000 women by Australian Women’s Weekly published this week found 71 percent want same-sex couples to have the same rights as heterosexual couples, the same level of support found in the Galaxy poll commissioned by activist group GetUp! last year.

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