Many readers will be wondering what difference remains between the Liberals under Nelson and under Howard after the shock announcement that they will hold back the Government’s same-sex rights reforms for months to submit them to exhaustive inquiry.

The Liberals’ reasons? The legislation must be carefully deloused of anything that might mimic, undermine, chip away or otherwise blur the fragile edges of marriage or foster our starting families -” though children with the misfortune of existing in same-sex households already must be treated with the utmost respect.

Most bizarre were comments by Liberal backbencher Stuart Robert who asserted that children should not be given inheritance rights from their non-biological parents lest it encourage gay IVF, and that health funds should be allowed to discriminate against customers they object morally to. Perhaps more disturbing -” Mr Robert is only 38.

The Liberals say it’s also important that same-sex couples are not allowed to creep ahead of non-sexual interdependents in the equality stakes.

This begs an obvious question: Why is it wrong for gay relationships to be given similar status to heterosexual marriages when those relationships supposedly exhibit different characteristics but okay for monogamous romantic relationships to be treated the same as interdependent arrangements of a very different kind?

Other interdependents, such as a parent and their disabled child or single elderly people living together, undoubtedly deserve recognition, but for Government to confuse the nature of their relationships with the nature of ours not only demotes ours to the level of just good friends but impacts negatively on theirs too.

Nelson’s own examples show why. He states there is an infinite variety of circumstances that deserve as much recognition as ours -” the key characteristics are that they are co-dependent, exclusive and are intended -¦ to be permanent.

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.

Now please explain why the relationship of two unmarried sisters should be recognised, but not that of three, four or five sisters who might be just as unmarried and just as dependent on each other? Remember -” the key here is exclusivity.

And what of parents or siblings with multiple handicapped family members to look after -” should there be exclusivity there too?

Clearly romantic relationships, straight and gay, have more in common with each other than they do with these.

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