Years of campaigns in South Australia look set to pay off as the state’s parliament opens debate on a landmark equality bill that is expected to take effect by Christmas.

After several false starts, South Australian parliament was due to clear most other business to begin debate on the Domestic Partners Bill yesterday.

If passed, the law would make South Australia the last state or territory to enact legislation recognising same-sex couples.

Unlike a similar bill that nearly became law last year, the Domestic Partners Bill included close non-sexual relationships, such as those between siblings, as well as same-sex partnerships.

A spokesperson for South Australian attorney-general Michael Atkinson told Sydney Star Observer the government made the change to persuade conservative MPs to support the reform.

The new legislation would extend financial, inheritance and other rights to couples who had lived together for at least three years. Courts could waive the three-year cohabitation requirement in the interests of justice.

Last November a similar bill passed the upper house but parliament ran out of time for final approval before closing for the year.

South Australian activists were hopeful this week their long wait for law reform was almost over.

Matthew Loader from lobby group Let’s Get Equal told the Star he was 75 percent confident the Domestic Partners Bill would be passed by year’s end.

It should pass easily, but there’s always the possibility of something creeping up at the last minute and creating a problem, Loader said.

The lower house was expected to complete debate on the Domestic Partners Bill after the Star went to press.

If approved by the lower house last night, the bill could be tabled in the upper house today. South Australian parliament has one more sitting week after this week.

If it got introduced in the upper house on Thursday, it then could sit on notice for seven days, which is the normal process, which then gives plenty of time for it to be adequately debated, Loader said.

My reading of the way it’s going in the upper house is that -¦ we’re very likely to get this bill through comfortably.

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