The last-minute passage of South Australia’s long-delayed same-sex relationships bill has spurred activists to call for more reform.

The landmark Domestic Partners Bill passed the South Australian parliament’s upper house by 16 votes to three last Thursday, the final parliamentary sitting day of the year.

MPs and supporters in the public gallery cheered as the bill went through after earlier fears it could stall for the third year running.

The law will recognise same-sex couples as domestic partners in about 90 pieces of legislation, including inheritance and property laws.

The term de facto will be removed from state law and replaced with domestic partner for all couples, opposite-sex and same-sex, who qualify.

Labor parliamentarian Ian Hunter, who has been in a same-sex relationship for 15 years, told the upper house debate the reform was only the first step towards full equality.

This bill is a step in the right direction -“ a big, bold step -“ but by no means the last, Hunter said.

Same-sex couples still have many campaigns ahead before they are treated as truly equal in the law.

The changes will come into force in early 2007, giving gay and lesbian couples financial, inheritance and other rights. The reform will make South Australia the final state or territory to recognise same-sex couples in legislation.

I was a bit floored, Matthew Loader from lobby group Let’s Get Equal told Sydney Star Observer after the bill was passed.

We’ve been campaigning on this for six years now. It’s been a really long struggle all the way through.

What we’ve ended up with is better than what we’d hoped for.

The Domestic Partners law will have less stringent cohabitation requirements than similar bills debated in previous years.

It will also recognise close non-sexual relationships and allow courts to take into account legal agreements formed between partners.

Activists are now concentrating on the next stage of law reform.

The two issues which are clearly missing from this bill are [relationship] registration and also adoption and reproductive technologies, Loader said.

We’ll be expecting to take some action around those.

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