Northern Territory attorney-general Peter Toyne signalled his intention this week to amend a variety of NT legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian people.

Equality before the law is a fundamental right but until now, gay and lesbian Territorians have not enjoyed the same rights as their fellow Territorians or as gay and lesbian men and women in other parts of the country, Toyne said.

The announcement follows a submission to the government by the Darwin Community Legal Service. Reforms include a uniform age of consent at 16, the removal of sexuality as a basis for discrimination in employment and the extension of property and other rights to same-sex couples. Domestic violence legislation will also be extended to protect people in gay and lesbian relationships.

We cannot continue to ignore this situation and marginalise a group of Territorians, Toyne said.

Reform is expected by the end of the year.

The Territory government has elected not to outlaw the homosexual panic defence, whereby a gay sexual advance can be seen as an excuse for violence. Reform on adoption and IVF will likewise not be included in the package.

The Territory gay and lesbian community is nevertheless buoyant at the attorney-general’s announcement. If passed, the reforms will see the Territory coming into line with the rest of the country, said Phil Walcott, organiser of the annual Alice Is Wonder-land festival.

It shows that the NT, far from being redneck, is very supportive of its gay and lesbian community.

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