South Australian activists are anticipating an election campaign clash over gay rights after a landmark equality bill failed to pass parliament during the final session of the year.

With the Labor government’s support, the Statutes Amendment (Relationships) Bill passed the upper house in November.

But conservatives’ delaying tactics and an urgent asbestos-related bill meant the lower house ran out of time to debate the gay rights legislation before it closed for the year two weeks ago, South Australian activist Matthew Loader said.

Loader, spokesperson for lobby group Let’s Get Equal, called the result very, very disappointing.

I think that possibly the government underestimated the lengths to which the opponents of the bill were prepared to go, he told Sydney Star Observer.

South Australia is the only Australian state or territory with no legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships.

If enacted, the Statutes Amendment (Relationships) Bill would update about 90 South Australian laws, including guardianship, inheritance and superannuation legislation. It would not allow same-sex couples to adopt or lesbians to access IVF.

The bill first entered parliament over a year ago, but same-sex couples would now have to wait until at least mid-2006 for legal recognition, Loader said.

We have added six months onto the process effectively. I would say the bill will not pass now until some time around June next year [at the earliest], Loader said.

It was the last bill that [parliament] debated, so it should be the first bill they introduce [next year] ideally.

The bill would have to pass both houses of parliament if it was reintroduced.

The Labor government said after parliament ended it remained committed to the legislation. But if the Liberals take government after the election next March, it is likely the bill will be sidelined.

My understanding is that they won’t do it, Loader said.

He said the failure of the bill to carry meant gay rights would become an election issue.

A conservative Christian group has already threatened to mount an anti-Labor campaign in one marginal Adelaide seat if the party doesn’t drop its support for the relationships bill.

Labor has rejected the threat, but Loader expected other conservatives would also campaign on an anti-gay rights platform.

I think that Family First -¦ will try to use it as an issue to rouse up votes for themselves, he said.

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