Gay and lesbian Northern Territorians woke up last week to a swag of new rights.
The NT parliament passed the Gay and Lesbian Law Reform package of legislation on Wednesday 26 November, after 12 hours of debate.
The package of legislation equalises the age of consent for gay men, removes some of the discriminatory exemptions from the territory’s Anti Discrimination Act, and extends legal rights to same-sex couples.
Jodeen Carney and Sue Carter from the opposition Country Liberal Party crossed the parliament floor to vote in favour of the reforms.
Most of the Country Liberal Party opposed the reforms, but were allowed a conscience vote. Opposition leader Terry Mills said most Territorians did not support lowering the age of consent for gay men to 16, the legal age for girls.
However vulnerable and immature the girl is at 16 years, a boy is more so when it comes to sexual matters, Mills said.
I don’t believe we should stop protecting boys just for the sake of equity.
There were also concerns about the possible equalising of same-sex relationships to traditional marriage. The suggestion was disputed by Labor MP John Ah Kit, among others.
There is no connection whatsoever, anywhere in the legislation, that equates same-sex relationships with customary marriage, and to suggest otherwise is humbug, Ah Kit said.
The Northern Territory was the last Australian jurisdiction to equalise its age of consent.
Caitlan Perry from the Darwin Community Legal Service described the parliamentary reforms as historic. The Community Legal Service had prepared a detailed submission outlining areas of discrimination in the Northern Territory.