The federal wing of the Australian Labor Party would look at implementing registers for homosexual couples but would not adopt same-sex marriage as part of its policy platform, shadow attorney-general Robert McLelland (pictured) said on Sunday.

Speaking at a Rainbow Labor forum in Revesby, McLelland said, Labor is not inclined at this stage to do anything to refine the marriage act to include same-sex couples.

The push for gay marriage was subject to genuine disagreement in the gay and lesbian community, McLelland said, and any amendment to marriage legislation would face immediate constitutional challenges.

Putting [gay marriage] on our platform would attract such controversy that it would swamp our other reforms, McLelland said. We don’t, quite frankly, want to step into that swamp.

But Labor would continue to audit legislation in order to remove provisions which discriminate against gay men and lesbians, and investigate a system of registration for same-sex couples based on models to be introduced in Tasmania and South Sydney, McLelland added.

Also speaking at the forum, attended by about a dozen people, were South Sydney’s deputy mayor, Peter Furness, and PFLAG representative Karen Purser.

Furness warned that the debate on gay marriage was not going to go away, and the British Labour government had been chastised for political meekness after proposing a civil relationships register rather than pushing for gay marriage.

Many people in the gay and lesbian community haven’t been given the reason to vote for Labor, Furness told the forum. If Labor doesn’t lead the way on this issue, there are others who will lead the way for us.

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