The first report by the Senate inquiry into same-sex equality reforms has revealed a new division in the Liberal Party.

Liberal senators on the committee broke ranks with their own party spokesman and called for the compulsory two-year living together requirement for de facto status to be scrapped. They also said the family law changes amounted to legalising polygamy because this allowed courts to recognise multiple concurrent de facto relationships.

A person cannot be part of -˜a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis’ with more than one person at a time unless the Parliament wants to endorse de facto polygamy, senators Guy Barnett, Mary Jo Fisher and Russell Trood wrote.

Instead of living together for two years, de facto couples should be determined by statutory declaration or a court order, the Liberal senators suggested.

Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, who was also on the committee, was left standing with the Greens and Labor senators in collectively proposing an opt-in process and transition period for new de facto laws.

The inquiry also gave a thumbs up to recognising state and territory relationship registers in federal law, as well as stronger protections for children when same-sex families break up.

It was the first sign since the Rudd Government’s equality reforms were introduced that they will most likely get the Senate’s approval with a few amendments.

The key changes recommended were to recognise same-sex families for issues like child support and access rights.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby had raised the omission earlier this year and appeared to have won over the Federal Government as well as the Opposition.

In its current form, the Bill recognised same-sex families only for the purposes of dividing property -” but not for issues relating to time spent with children and child support. The Lobby said this was outrageous and Committee Senators from all sides of politics agreed with us, Lobby co-convenor Emily Gray said.

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