Gay and lesbian law reform in Tasmania and Western Australia has taken a huge leap forward this week with the announcement of landmark legislation in both states.

Democrats interim leader, Senator Brian Greig, said the proclamation of the Acts Amendment (Lesbian and Gay Law Reform) Bill 2001 will bring WA into line with most Australian states and territories, with WA leading the nation in some areas of reform.

The WA law reform covers a range of areas including anti-discrimination protections, equal age of consent, parenting rights and responsibilities and partnership recognition, Greig said.

As an advocate of these issues for many years, I am delighted to see these laws come to fruition in my home state.

A basic measure of equality for WA’s gay and lesbian citizens has been achieved under the new laws. The age of consent will now be 16 across the board; both members of lesbian couples will now be recognised as the parents of children born as a result of artificial conception; and same-sex couples will also be able to co-adopt each other’s children.

Next of kin provisions have been amended to include de facto couples in areas such as medical treatment and inheritance, and laws ensuring property rights are currently before WA parliament.

The Tasmanian state government has announced a proposal to introduce similar changes to same-sex and de facto relationship laws. Combined with recent gay law reform and anti-discrimination legislation, this is likely to set the benchmark for gay and lesbian equality throughout Australia.

According to the state attorney-general, Judy Jackson, the government would amend all acts of parliament which discriminate between married and de facto heterosexual couples on one hand, and same-sex couples and people in significant relationships on the other.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokes-person, Rodney Croome, said the proposed legislation had a good chance in the upper house, and if passed would provide Tasmanians with the most comprehensive and progressive relationship laws in the country.

The government is to be commended for its proposal to recognise not only same-sex couples, but all significant personal relationships, in all those Tasmanian laws which currently disadvantage them, Croome said.

The upper house is much less antagonistic to lesbian and gay issues than it once was and the fact that the Liberal opposition has agreed to a conscience vote on the issue will encourage upper house members to support reform.

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