Labor party support for two Democrats bills -“ the Sexuality Anti-Discrimination bill and the Sexuality Anti-Vilification bill -“ will reveal the strength of the ALP’s commitment to gay and lesbian law reform, Democrats senator Brian Greig suggested this week.

Greig said he had written to Labor party leader Mark Latham and Senate leader John Faulkner and asked for their support in bringing the two bills on for debate in the Senate, where they have languished for some time.

Now that Labor says it wants national gay law reform, same-sex partner recognition and legislation against incitement to hatred, there is no excuse for the ALP overlooking or ignoring the existing Democrats bills which do precisely these things, Senator Greig said.

But Labor party sources warned that the party would be unlikely to support the two bills as Caucus has not yet considered them. Gay and lesbian party members fear that the party could be perceived as soft on gay and lesbian law reform issues because of this.

Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Somali Cerise said the Lobby expected the ALP’s in-principle commitment to gay and lesbian equality to be maintained. The Lobby would engage with Labor senators when the bills were brought on for debate, she said.

While the Lobby co-convenors are not anticipating Liberal party support for the Democrats bills, they told the Star this week that a television debate with new attorney-general Philip Ruddock had revealed one encouraging sign.

Cerise and fellow co-convenor Rob McGrory debated Ruddock on a Sky News program (airing this Sunday). It’s the first time a commonwealth attorney-general has engaged the Lobby in a debate, McGrory said. While Ruddock refused to make commitments on gay and lesbian law reform issues, McGrory said, he had shown himself to be somewhat more amenable to the issues than his predecessor, Daryl Williams.

Williams dismayed and angered many activists in June 2002 when he wrote to the then Lobby co-convenors and suggested that the Howard government would not pursue any gay and lesbian law reform matters while in power.

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