The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) launched an inquiry this week into Australian laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in relation to financial and work-related benefits.

The inquiry, called Same-Sex: Same Entitlements, aims to identify all federal and state laws where same-sex couples are refused entitlements offered to heterosexual couples.

HREOC president John von Doussa said the inquiry, launched on Monday, was the beginning of a process seeking to bring about the elimination of discrimination against same-sex couples in Australia in accessing financial entitlements and benefits -“ benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted.

There are a myriad of Australian laws which only recognise heterosexual relationships as bona fide relationships. This simply does not reflect reality. It never did, he said.

Examples of discrimination include the Medicare safety net, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, social security benefits, workers’ compensation, inheritance, tax concessions, parliamentary entitlements, judicial pensions and veterans’ pensions.

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby welcomed the HREOC investigation, saying past inquiries had been instrumental in removing discrimination.

Previous HREOC inquiries have led to substantial law reform, co-convenor Laurie Berg said. And, like past inquiries, this one will go a long way to making people in mainstream society aware of issues of discrimination affecting people throughout Australia.

HREOC released a discussion paper aimed at encouraging same-sex couples to submit real life stories about how the discriminatory laws have impacted on them. Personal stories were the best way to help politicians and the general community understand the unfairness of the laws, HREOC commissioner Graeme Innes said.

To view the HREOC discussion paper or enter a submission go to the HREOC website.

The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is 2 June.

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