Fears are growing that South Australia’s long-delayed gay law reform bill could fail to pass parliament for the third year in a row.

The bill passed South Australian parliament’s lower house comfortably two weeks ago. It must pass the upper house today, slated as parliament’s last sitting session for the year, or face being debated again in 2007.

Upper house debate began on Tuesday and was expected to continue last night as Sydney Star Observer went to press.

This is the third year in a row that they’ve been debating this legislation as the parliamentary year comes to an end, Matthew Loader from South Australian gay lobby group Let’s Get Equal said.

We’re confronting the same circumstances we did every time, which is that they’re running out of time.

Two weeks ago Loader said he was 75 percent confident the landmark reform would become law by the end of the year, making South Australia the last state or territory to recognise same-sex couples in legislation.

But on Tuesday Loader told the Star he rated the bill’s prospects of passing this year as 60 to 70 percent.

I’ve downgraded my expectations somewhat, he said.

There are clearly the numbers to get it through. [But] if you’ve got a short timeframe you just never know.

If it doesn’t pass this year the one advantage is that it won’t lapse so they can just go straight into the upper house in February next year, when parliament resumes, and wrap it up then.

The Domestic Partners Bill would extend financial, inheritance and other rights to same-sex couples as well as people living together in close non-sexual relationships, such as siblings.

Last week a spokesperson for South Australian attorney-general Michael Atkinson said the government remained confident the bill would pass this year.

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