Change is on the horizon. That’s what Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland told the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby when we met him on 26 February to discuss the 58 laws which discriminate against same-sex couples and their children.
In an encouraging beginning to our 58 ’08 campaign, it was clear from our meeting with the Attorney-General that same-sex law reform is very much on the agenda. A further audit of federal laws which discriminate against same-sex couples has already been completed, suggesting reform could eventuate soon.
But our key question to the Attorney-General was when? With every month that goes by there are people permanently disadvantaged by the failure to fix these discriminatory laws, including their partners and children.
McClelland gave the Lobby a warm and open reception. His answer suggested that the first stage of reforms could be introduced into parliament by mid-year. Drafting of legislation was already under way.
But will Labor honour its election commitment of full equality for same-sex de facto couples across all federal law? We don’t want to find some of the 58 are quietly shelved because they will be controversial or “too expensive”.
The sort of leadership that allowed for Australia to ratify Kyoto, or say Sorry, has to extend to the basic rights of same-sex couples.
And if the bills are introduced this year, will they have the support of the Coalition, Greens and independents to pass through the Senate?
The meeting with the Attorney-General gives us great hope. But how far the Rudd Government actually goes and how fast it moves, as well as their ability to garner bipartisan support, depends in part on how far and how hard our community is prepared to push for 58 in 08.
Change is at our fingertips but each of us must take action and demand it today.
Support the 58 ’08 campaign. Log onto www.glrl.org.au/58 and demand equality now.
Peter Johnson and Emily Gray are the co-convenors, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.