Gay rights activists are furious the federal government will recognise same-sex partners as family members in anti-terrorism legislation, but not in any other areas of law.
Draft anti-terrorism legislation leaked to the public this week revealed that same-sex partners were included under the definition of family member.
The only other legislation which recognised same-sex couples in the same way was earlier anti-terrorism legislation introduced in 2004.
The new bill mentions same-sex partners under the section Contacting family members, saying: The person being detained is entitled to -¦ contact one of his or her family members.
It goes on to say, Family member in this section means -¦ the person’s spouse, de facto spouse or same-sex partner.
National Greens leader Senator Bob Brown told Sydney Star Observer the move was sadly typical of John Howard.
He wants to recognise same-sex couples only when he suspects them of terrorism, Brown said.
When the bill goes before the Senate next month, the openly gay Brown said he would attempt to attach an amendment to it that would see same-sex couples recognised under all other pieces of federal legislation.
That should be an interesting exercise, Brown said.
David Scamell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, described the situation as ludicrous.
The government is willing to recognise the same-sex partner of a suspected terrorist but not the same-sex partner of a federal police officer or one of the troops serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said.
Every state except South Australia has recognised same-sex couples in some sort of comprehensive legislative reform, and this federal government hasn’t done so because it’s playing politics. It’s chosen to pursue a socio-conservative agenda and it’s at the expense of gays and lesbians across the country.
Same-sex relationships are alluded to in other areas of federal law, such as superannuation and immigration, but instead of being named explicitly they come under the definition of interdependents, a form of relationship which can be difficult to prove.
A spokesperson from the office of Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told the Star the term same-sex partners was used in the anti-terror bill because the section was referring to spousal arrangements only.
The term same-sex partnership is much more specific. Interdependency applies to a much wider range of relationships, said the spokesperson, who would not be drawn as to why the term is not used in other legislation.
A spokesperson for shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon echoed
It’s been our policy for a long time to go through all the federal statutes and remove any discrimination that exists, the spokesperson said.
Gay rights activist Rodney Croome said the situation was worse than a double standard, it’s demonisation.
Someone who knew nothing about Australian society except what they read in the statute books would rapidly come to the conclusion that the only people who have same-sex relationships in this country are the kind of people you suspect of being terrorists, he said.