The Australian Christian Lobby supports a model that would see gay couples recognised as de facto under the law.

It is one of an overwhelming majority of submissions to the first Senate inquiry into the Rudd Government’s equality reforms that supports the model. Only a quarter of the 400 submissions oppposed legal de facto recognition.

But the Coalition-forced inquiry has subjected same-sex couples to more homophobic bigotry, with some religious groups attacking same-sex parents and their ability to have long-term relationships.

Superannuation entitlements … should not be tied in any way to private -˜couple relationships’. This terminology is merely a euphemism for immoral same-sex relationships and constitutes yet another attack on the sanctity of marriage, one form letter stated.

The Festival of Light and Australian Family Association accused same-sex couples of having significant detrimental outcomes on their children and having no shared life beyond their sexual relationship.

Both male homosexual and lesbian relationships are significantly more unstable than marriage, with lesbian relationships breaking up within the first eight years at over three times the rate of marriages, Family Voice Australia submitted.

Some religious groups, including the Australian Christian Lobby and Uniting Justice Australia, supported same-sex de facto equality and the proposed bill either substantially or in full.

Gay activist Rodney Croome said the low number of anti-gay form letters was probably because the inquiry was not dealing with gay marriage.

At the same time I think there’s much less concern among social conservatives about same-sex marriage than there was four years ago, so it’s harder to galvanise on that issue as well, he said.

The issue is more mainstream now, more widely discussed­ -” it’s not as threatening to many people.

The inquiry’s first hearing in Sydney on Tuesday was repeatedly drawn to the issue of recognition of interdependents ­-” not included in the Rudd Government’s proposed legislation.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Emily Gray said the group was not devaluing interdependent non-couple rel-ationships, but such relationships were fundamentally different from loving de facto couples and their entitlements from such should be dealt with in a separate bill.

Couples don’t only have rights, but also responsiblities -” a caring relationship is different, Gray said. Interdependency also has a more onerous obligation to qualify.

De facto recognition for same-sex couples was well understood, Law Council of Australia director Scott Chareneka said, but interdependency had no recogn-ition in common or state law.

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