Same-sex couples are part of the Rudd Government’s vision for social inclusion, but are not quite the same as de facto couples, according to recent statements from its representatives and departments.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion Ursula Stephens put on record that she does consider same-sex couples part of her vision for social inclusion, but continued to deny watering down that message to Christian groups.
In response to constituent demands for her to explain her speech to August’s marriage breakfast at Parliament House, Senator Stephens replied by email saying she wanted to clarify what she said and offered a copy of another speech given by Attorney-General Robert McClelland several weeks earlier.
A recording of the public marriage breakfast, taken by Southern Star, reveals Stephens read only the first and last lines of the speech. In doing so she skipped over the Rudd Government’s strong statement that “people are entitled to respect, dignity and opportunity to participate in society and receive the protection of the law regardless of sexuality or marital status”.
Stephens did not explain the discrepancy in her words when asked by email and through her office.
However, when asked directly if she believed same-sex families were part of her vision for social inclusion, Stephens’ reply was emphatic: “Yes!”
This comes as federal departments struggle with same-sex couples in de facto terminology since the 58’08 equality laws were passed last year.
The first family services program rolled out since the reforms, ‘My family is separating – What now?’, refers to same-sex couples as if they are not de facto.
“Both de facto and same-sex couples should seek advice from your local Community Legal Centre or a solicitor,” the campaign material at www.familyseparation.humanservices.gov.au states.
The family law reforms were intended to place same-sex couples within the definition and scope of de facto couples.
Requests for comment to the Human Services Minister Chris Bowen’s office were not returned by time of print.

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