Three South Australian parliamentarians from opposing parties have joined forces to deliver an ultimatum to the Rann Labor government about introducing a bill that would give legal rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Liberal MP Michelle Lensink, Democrats MP Sandra Kanck and Greens MP Mark Parnell warned Labor to reintroduce the Relationships Bill, which was an election promise in 2002 and 2006, or the three of them will co-sponsor a private member’s bill containing identical legislation.

South Australia is the only state not to have passed laws giving same-sex couples the same rights as de facto partners.

The Relationships Bill was passed by the South Australian Legislative Council on 21 November 2005, but when it progressed to the House of Assembly the government struck a deal with the Liberals not to pass the bill and it lapsed.

Lensink said it was time to put the matter back on the government’s agenda.

The government is dragging its feet on the issue, and we have become tired of waiting, she told Sydney Star Observer.

That is why we have told the government that if they don’t reintroduce the bill, we will.

In the lead-up to the SA state election in March, the ALP state president Nick Champion gave a commitment that the bill would be reintroduced into the next session of parliament. With one session completed and a second under way, there has been no further progress with the bill.

I just can’t fathom why it has taken so long, and it is not that complicated, Lensink said.

Substantially, the bill is just the same as it was when it passed last year, with just some technical changes.

But it’s the changes by the government that South Australians should be most concerned about, according to Rod Swift of the Australian Coalition for Equality.

If the bill is supported by the opposition and is not a problem, then why are they not pushing ahead with it? Swift asked. There must be an ulterior motive.

He believed the hold-up was due to concerns by conservatives in the Rann government that the wording in the bill could be misconstrued as government approval for same-sex marriage.

I think they are going to define -˜de facto’, just as the Howard government demanded the ACT define that a civil union is not a marriage, he said.

The South Australian government is doing a back-pedal here as the broad definition of -˜de facto’ has possibly come into criticism from the extreme right.

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