The Opposition will block all 100 same-sex equality amendments until at least September, but a number of Liberal MPs are unhappy with further delays.
It is also understood the Attorney-General has been given advice that the reforms cannot be backdated if the bill isn’t passed by 1 July.
Earlier suggestions of a quick Senate inquiry to clarify the intentions of the superannuation same-sex equality bill could be over quickly were squashed by Liberal leader Brendan Nelson just before it passed the lower house last week.
This is not a delaying tactic. It is more important that this be done properly, than it be done immediately, Nelson said.
He raised the potential weakening of the status of marriage in federal law and the inclusion of same-sex couples in a broader category of interdependency as issues that needed further scrutiny by a Senate committee.
A common example is of two unmarried sisters who decide to live together as a household and do so throughout all of their adult lives, he said.
Should they not have the same rights in relation to property, taxation and superannuation as two gay people who decide to do the same in a sexual relationship?
Interdependent relationships are currently being considered by a House of Representatives committee separately from the equality reforms.
Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis faced the gay community to explain the back-flip on queer radio station Joy Melbourne the next day.
He reaffirmed the bipartisan support for the removal of discrimination but said the superannuation bill and the later omnibus bill, yet to be introduced, needed to be scrutinised together.
He distanced himself from the divisions in the Liberal party and said he would be piloting these measures through the Senate on the Coalition’s behalf.
However, he could not guarantee the Opposition would support the backdating of the reforms to 1 July this year, first suggested by Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull.
Liberal MPs Turnbull, Christopher Pyne, and Petro Georgiou gave unqualified support to the first equality bill without amendment last week.
With an issue of such importance and magnitude, it would be more unusual if there were not such an inquiry. That said, an inquiry into this bill in particular should be able to be completed before June 30 -” an outcome that I would welcome, Pyne said.
Georgiou even called it a shame the previous Howard government could not have achieved this reform. But a number of Coalition backbenchers were opposed to same-sex relationships receiving the same benefits as married couples. Independent MP Bob Katter equated the reforms to the death of civilisation.
Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Co-convenor Emily Gray said if there were any other issues the Coalition had with the legislation it needed to make them public now.
If it’s just the children and interdependency issues then the gay and lesbian community should be angry, she said.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland hit back at the Opposition saying the legislation was time critical.
The only reason to refer this legislation to a Senate committee would be to achieve a prolongation and extend the discrimination that currently exists against same-sex couples, discrimination which the opposition leader and many opposite are determined -” and we appreciate their genuineness -” to remove, he said.