While gay marriage may be off the agenda, same-sex relationship laws are set for a review, and the Law Reform Commission wants some queer input.
Gay men and lesbians are invited to take part in forums this month to discuss whether same-sex couples should be able to register their relationships, how property should be divided when a same-sex couple splits and whether state laws should recognise non-biological parents as legal parents.
Senior legal officer of the NSW Law Reform Commission, Francesca di Benedetto, told Sydney Star Observer the forums were prompted by imminent changes to the federal Family Law Act (1975), which will soon apply only to heterosexual de facto couples.
Under changes expected to take effect later this year, same-sex de facto couples will be covered only by the state Property Relationships Act (1984).
Participants will be asked whether the state law should mirror the commonwealth law, as the federal government has consistently said that it will not include same-sex de facto relationships within the Family Law Act, di Benedetto said.
This is why we’ve decided to do a series of focus groups to speak directly to people in same-sex relationships about the provisions of the legislation, she said.
An inner-city forum focusing on property will be held at the ACON offices in 9 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, on Wednesday 25 August from 6:30pm to 8pm. A forum on parenting issues will be held on Thursday 26 August from 5:30pm to 7pm at Petersham Town Hall.
Western Sydney forums will be held at Penrith Panthers on Saturday 28 August, with property discussed from noon to 1:30pm and a parenting forum from 2pm to 3:30pm.
Participants are asked to phone 9228 7513 to register for the groups, with attendees paid a one-off fee of $40 to cover expenses.
If unable to attend a forum, community members are encouraged to fill out the questionnaire available at www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lrc. Completed questionnaires must be faxed to 9228 8225 or mailed to NSW LRC, GPO Box 5199, Sydney, NSW 2001, by 7 September 2004.
Di Benedetto said the LRC hoped to present their report to the attorney-general by November.