BY HARLEY DENNET & ANDIE NOONAN

Supporters of same-sex marriage, civil unions and sexuality anti-discrimination laws will be competing with the nuclear power debate for focus on the last day of the ALP National Conference this Saturday.

The latest draft policy renews the call for state-based relationship registers that don’t -œmimic marriage.

The draft also supports anti-discrimination legislation on the basis of sexuality and gender identity, but gives no clear federal law commitment.

Rainbow Labor Victoria spokeswoman and non-voting conference delegate Sarah Cole told Southern Star she would push for a national  relationship recognition scheme and marriage rights.

-œIt’s not nationally consistent, you can cross a border and suddenly have less relationship recognition – even the schemes themselves aren’t necessarily consistent with each other in the state they exist, she said.

Those moving towards marriage were given a jolt of hope this week after the ALP’s Tasmanian chapter endorsed same-sex marriage at its state conference on Sunday.

Tasmanian gay rights advocate Rodney Croome said the move sent a strong message to the national conference. -œClearly the grass roots of the Labor Party has heard the message that a majority of Australians support marriage equality for same-sex couples, even if the Party’s federal leadership is lagging behind, Croome said.

The Tasmanian endorsement, moved by Young Labor, has been seen as a small but important victory for Rainbow Labor, however they do not expect the 400 delegates from around Australia to vote to overturn current policy opposing same-sex marriage.

-œState conference doesn’t have the ability to set national priorities, but it’s quite an important body of the Labor Party that’s making a pretty strong statement there, Cole said.

-œWe hope it’s very much on the agenda, and we’ll be trying as hard as we can to make sure people are talking about it.

Two years ago debate on same-sex relationship recognition was split between a vocal minority advocating no support and a majority endorsing state-based relationship registers. Not a single speaker supported marriage equality at the 2007 conference.

Ahead of the 2009 conference, dozens of Labor figures have publicly declared their support of same-sex marriage, including Victoria’s Bronwyn Pike -” who will not be at the conference -” the entire ACT Government, Young Labor, and a number of backbenchers in state and federal parliaments not bound by government gags.

Preparations for same-sex marriage rallies around the country to coincide with the conference are advanced.

Equal Love spokesperson Tony Pitman said organisers are expecting the biggest crowds ever seen in Australia to come out in support of gay marriage.

-œIt’s hard to predict, but the buzz is that they’re going to be in the thousands, that’s what we’re hoping for, he said.

info: Southern Star will have reporters inside the conference and outside during the protests.

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