Gay activists and the RSL have used this year’s Anzac Day to call for the recognition of veterans’ same-sex partners.
As the nation remembered those who had served in war, lobby group Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) urged the government to extend to gay and lesbian veterans the benefits that are already enjoyed by gays and lesbians currently serving.
A change in Australian Defence Force policy last December recognised current servicepeople’s same-sex partners and gave them similar entitlements to their heterosexual counterparts.
But the partners of gay veterans are not acknowledged -“ a discrepancy ACE spokesperson Rod Swift said was hypocritical.
Anzac Day is when we treat our diggers with respect, and we’re highlighting a case where the diggers aren’t getting the respect they deserve, Swift told Sydney Star Observer.
The definition of spouse needs to be expanded to cover [veterans’] same-sex partners, he said.
The RSL echoed ACE’s calls for equality.
Defence has a policy of recognising same-sex relationships -¦ and we have no problems with that, RSL deputy national president Don Rowe told the Star.
As such we would believe that [partners of veterans] are entitled to the same benefits as any other partners would be.
If the Defence department recognises it then they should be treated the same as any other recognised partnership.
Veterans’ Affairs minister Bruce Billson was unavailable for comment yesterday.
In 2003 the United Nations found Australia breached human rights standards by not giving a pension to Edward Young after the death of his partner of 38 years, veteran Larry Cains.
The UN called on Australia to end the discrimination, but the Howard government chose to ignore the advice.
Last year Sydney gay man Jiro Takamisawa -“ who lived with his veteran partner for over 20 years -“ lost his war widow’s pension after the Department of Veterans’ Affairs found out he was male.
Australia has done nothing to rectify the law, Swift said.
If no action occurs it shows that John Howard’s claim that he wants discrimination removed -¦ in the law is made a mockery of, Swift said.
Last December prime minister Howard said he supported removing any property and other discrimination that exists against people who have same-sex relationships.