A federal Labor MP has compared the country’s treatment of gay and lesbian people with the White Australia policy, and joined with others in his party to say even further equality reform is still needed.

Politicians from both sides rose in droves to praise the latest round of the same-sex equality reforms when parliament resumed last week.

The journey is not yet complete, but I hope that in years to come we will be able to look back -” as we now do to the years of the White Australia policy -” to the years in which there was discrimination against and gays and lesbians, cultural minorities and people with disabilities and say, -˜We have come a long way, and to a better place,’ Labor MP Mark Dreyfus QC said.

The legislative changes to the family court recognising same-sex couples would lead to further social progress, he added.

Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby asked why Australians could congratulate Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham, but not recognise his same-sex partner with the same rights other Australians take for granted. It says we are a country that still has a long way to go before we achieve full equality for all of our citizens, he said.

As someone who has recently entered the esteemed estate of matrimony, I reject the view that married Australians will somehow be adversely affected by extending equality in these areas to other Australians, he said.

Danby also accused the previous Howard government of exploiting homophobia to win the 2004 election on the back of the gay marriage ban.

I know this is true because a member of my staff heard two Liberal members of this House saying exactly that.

Deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop was among the opposition members who spoke in support of the removal of discrimination and the benefits to children. However, Bronwyn Bishop accused the Government of trying to undermine marriage.

There is already a debate in the community involving certain people who have a particular religious belief and who believe that polygamy should be introduced into this country, Bishop said.

The family law amendment passed the lower house easily and moved to the Senate for consideration of further amendments to include same-sex child support payments.

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