Comments by new federal Opposition leader Brendan Nelson have shifted the gay rights debate to a new level of political acceptance, just a week after the demise of John Howard.
“I believe very strongly that the economic and social injustices faced by homosexual people across this country need to be addressed, from taxation to social policy issue,” Nelson told the ABC’s Insiders.
“Every Australian, as far as taxation, social security and those things, should be treated equally.”
He promised to discuss with his colleagues how they would feel if the discrimination affected them, their siblings, or their children.
Nelson has previously spoken publicly of his gay brother who died of AIDS prior to his entering parliament, and in the same breath, against the “undignified” Mardi Gras.
Coalition members would discuss a conscience vote on equality reforms, Nelson’s spokesman told SSO, but was confident the Opposition leader’s position would be supported.
The Coalition would also reconsider its opposition to any relationship recognition, unthinkable under John Howard.
Although Nelson has drawn the line at marriage, IVF and adoption, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Emily Gray felt a supportive leader was a profound shift for a party that only offered superannuation reforms before the election.
“[Malcolm] Turnbull was held back by the leadership. John Howard is now gone, and we see the emergence of the moderates in the party who are now backing same-sex equality,” Gray said.
“We don’t want to take anything for granted. We need the Liberal Party to back the comments that Nelson has made, and we need the Labor Party to commit to a timeframe for implementing the 58 areas of HREOC.
“Now that Rudd has quickly signed the Kyoto Protocol, we’d expect he’d behave in the same way in relation to the commitments he made to the gay and lesbian community.”
Meanwhile, new cabinet minister Penny Wong’s arrival at Government House on Monday with her same-sex partner, Sophie Allouache, signalled the arrival of a new era of openly gay politicians in major federal parties. Incoming WA Senator Louise Pratt is one of them.
It will be incoming Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s job to implement Labor’s commitment to full equality for same-sex couples.
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